Ballymena United 0
Loughgall 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
0 - 1
Loughgall 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, January 27th, 2024
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,085
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
None. Nathaniel Ferris (62)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Dean Smith

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
5. Scot Whiteside
29. Sean Brown
31. Jamie Robinson
11. Steven McCullough
2. Kym Nelson
28. Dylan Boyle
4. Donal Rocks
16. Fraser Taylor
10. Ryan Waide
27. Jonathan McMurray
Berraat Turker .1
Jamie Rea .3
Ben Murdock .4
Pablo Andrade .7
Nathaniel Ferris .9
Andrew Hoey .10
Robbie Norton .12
Jordan Gibson .13
Alberto Balde .18
Benji Magee .21
Caolan Loughran .23

Bench
26. Sam Johnston
17. Andrew McGrory
21. Lewis Tennant
30. Michael Place
35. Brendan Barr
36. Calvin McCurry
33. Noah Stewart
Daniel Devine .20
Mark Carson .2
Caolan McAleer .11
Mark Patton .14
James Carroll .19
Ben Harvey .26
Adam Towe .27

Substitutions
Calvin McCurry for Jonathan McMurray (65)
Michael Place for Donal Rocks (77)
Noah Stewart for Michael Place (77)
Brendan Barr for Scot Whiteside (86)
Caolan McAleer for Alberto Balde (62)
Mark Patton for Nathaniel Ferris (71)
James Carroll for Andrew Hoey (82)

Cautions
Jamie Robinson (38)
Jonathan McMurray (53)
Ryan Waide (90)
Jordan Gibson (81)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Mark Dillon (Referee)
Gavin Hegarty & Kristian Hanna (Assistants)
Raymond Crangle (Fourth Official)




Match Report


Ballymena United's struggles continued on Saturday afternoon as they suffered a third defeat to Loughgall this season with a 1-0 loss to the Villagers in a low-key affair at The Showgrounds.

Following defeat to Cliftonville a week ago, Jim Ervin made a hattrick of changes for the visit of Loughgall, as Donal Rocks and Jamie Robinson returned, while Johnny McMurray was also back after suspension.

After two quickfire collapses saw the Braidmen fall to defeat in the two previous meetings between the sides this season, they were hoping to enact revenge, but the visitors went close twice in the opening five minutes. First, with barely a minute on the clock, Sean O'Neill, on his 500th Irish League appearance, was out quick to smother an effort from Nathaniel Ferris, before Andrew Hoey curled an attempt just over from eighteen yards out.

Beyond those early openings, there was nothing at all to worry either goalkeeper to the half hour mark, and whilst United were probably looking the more likely, it was only just in what was a real low-quality half. However, when a chance finally did arrive, it was a big one for the hosts. Ballymena finally got the weight right on a long ball as Dylan Boyle picked out an advancing Ryan Waide down the left. With Berraat Tucker coming into no man's land well off his line, it looked like Waide would have a go from distance, but he instead crossed for McMurray who, albeit stretching for the ball in the air, probably should've done better as he poked the ball wide with the goal gaping.

On the stroke of half time came the Sky Blues' second real chance of the half and again it was a good one that got away from McMurray. Kym Nelson did well on the left and his low ball into the box found McMurray in acres of space, but after a swing and a miss, he had time to set himself again for a second go, but could only fire wide, as an uneventful half ended scoreless.

It felt like the level of quality on show could only really go one way in the second half, but it proved to be another hard watch for the most part, although Ballymena started the second period reasonably well. Steven McCullough sent a central free kick straight at Tucker in the Loughgall goal, before a pin point long ball from Nelson was beautifully taken down by McMurray inside the box, but he opted to shoot early and fired straight at Tucker.

Following the going of the first half, those two early sighters were met with very little again from either side for a long spell afterwards, until in the sixty-third minute the Villagers broke the deadlock from virtually nowhere. The away side got themselves out of a tight spot from a throw in close the right corner flag, and when Pablo Andrade crossed it was only Nathaniel Ferris to find in the box, but he got across Robinson and saw his fairly weak header have just enough pace to get past O'Neill.

The boss turned to his bench instantly as McMurray made way for new United signing Calvin McCurry, who came on for his debut less than forty-eight hours after joining the club, as he looked to help turn this one around.

Shortly after falling behind, McCullough had another chance from a slightly closer free kick to his one earlier in the half, but again he gave Tucker a fairly comfortable assignment, and just a couple of minutes later United had Waide, their best player on the day, to thank for denying Loughgall a second as he headed clear on the line a Ben Murdoch volley.

With fifteen minutes to go the home side could not have come any closer to drawing level from a corner. Skipper Scot Whiteside saw a shot cleared off the line by Jamie Rea, but incredibly his clearance ricocheted back off Robinson and rattled the inside of the post, before Rea somehow hooked the ball off the line for a second time.

That slice of unfortune perhaps neatly summed up Ballymena's current state of affairs, and more changes came late on as Mikey Place and Noah Stewart were introduced, before Brendy Barr made his first appearance in his second spell with the club. Two of those changes saw centre back's taken off which signalled Ballymena's intent to go for it, but that intent never really flourished as the Sky Blues continued to look slow and laboured, until the eighty-ninth minute when McCurry was presented with a massive opening. He did well to chase after a long ball and force the Loughgall back line into an error, allowing the former Ballyclare man in one on one, but he got the finish all wrong to put the ball well wide.

In five minutes of added time there was nothing at all to worry Tucker, as the away side comfortably saw out a 1-0 win, and for United it's yet another damaging result, and whilst their limited chances were big ones, it was another performance that lacked class and cutting edge.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (www.ballymenaunitedfc.com)



Squad Statistics (as at January 27th, 2024)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 28 - 91 -
Steven McCullough29 2912389
Jamie Robinson21 3 - 3 -
Scot Whiteside26 3011282
Sean Brown18 4 - 4 -
Dylan Boyle22 21 - 21 -
Donal Rocks23 20 - 20 -
Kym Nelson28 24 - 795
Fraser Taylor20 292292
Ryan Waide23 24314018
Jonathan McMurray29 19411736
Brendan Barr (sub)22 1 - 38 -
Michael Place (sub)25 272878
Calvin McCurry (sub)22 1 - 1 -
Noah Stewart (sub)19 216216



League Table (as at January 27th, 2024)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 27 21 2 4 65
2. Larne 27 19 7 1 64
3. Cliftonville 26 19 3 4 60
4. Glentoran 25 13 5 7 44
5. Crusaders 27 12 5 10 41
6. Coleraine 27 9 5 13 32
7. Loughgall 26 9 4 13 31
8. Carrick 27 9 3 15 30
9. Glenavon 26 9 2 15 29
10. Dungannon 27 7 6 14 27
11. BALLYMENA 27 5 3 19 18
12. Newry 26 3 3 20 12