Newry Town (City) 1
Ballymena United 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


1 - 1

Ballymena United

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, February 9th, 2024
Newry Showgrounds
Attendance: 785
7:45 PM Kick-off

Adam Salley (76) Noah Stewart (73)

Team Managers
Barry Gray Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
12. Conor Mitchell
2. Darren King
3. Noel Healy
4. Ryan McGivern
5. Barney McKeown
14. Adam Salley
16. Liam Bagnall
20. Steven Ball
24. Lorcan Forde
33. Donal Scullion
44. Brandon Doyle
Sean O'Neill .1
Daithi McCallion .39
Sean Brown .29
Steven McCullough .11
Jamie Robinson .31
Donal Rocks .4
Fraser Taylor .16
Dylan Boyle .28
Kym Nelson .2
Calvin McCurry .36
Jonathan McMurray .27

1. Steven Maguire
6. Francis McCaffrey
8. Adam Carroll
11. John McGovern
38. Georgie Poynton
42. Jamie McDonagh
49. Paul McGovern
Sam Johnston .26
Michael Place .30
Brendan Barr .35
Lewis Tennant .21
Michael Leddy .38
Andrew McGrory .17
Noah Stewart .33

Georgie Poynton for Steven Ball (24)
John McGovern for Brandon Doyle (71)
Francis McCaffrey for Lorcan Forde (85)
Noah Stewart for Jonathan McMurray (72)
Michael Place for Donal Rocks (83)
Michael Leddy for Calvin McCurry (87)

Liam Bagnall (56)
Lorcan Forde (69)
Georgie Poynton (81)
Donal Rocks (40)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Christopher Morrison (Referee)
Rachel Greer & Kristian Hanna (Assistants)
Jamie Robinson (Fourth Official)

Match Report

It's as you were at the bottom of the table as a dominant Ballymena United failed to get over the line in a 1-1 draw with bottom side Newry City at the Newry Showgrounds on Friday night.

Ahead of a huge game between the league's bottom two in front of the BBC cameras, Jim Ervin made just the one change from last weekend's Irish Cup exit to Linfield, as Daithi McCallion made his United debut in place of Mikey Place, as the Braidmen went back to a back five.

In a wet Newry, and on a pitch far from lending itself to getting the ball down and playing, the first half was a pretty tame and quality lacking affair, but a half Ballymena largely controlled. Within two minutes there was an early opening for the visitors as a ball over the top put Calvin McCurry in, but he could only fire straight at Conor Mitchell.

With fifteen minutes on the clock, Barry Gray's side gave United food for thought for the first time, and after Darren King had a weak header easily saved from a corner, a great turn and burst of pace gave Adam Salley an opening, but at a tight angle Sean O'Neill saved round the post. Down the other end, a chance from a similar angle presented itself to Johnny McMurray when he was slipped in by Fraser Taylor following great work by Dylan Boyle to win the ball back, but McMurray also saw his shot batted wide.

Past the half hour mark it was all United, who were pressing Newry high and effectively, but again the Sky Blues lacked any substance in the final third, which was demonstrated when a fantastic delivery from Taylor off a free kick was begging to be finished off, but no one in black was anywhere near it. Eventually, the away side were able to create a big chance, and it came via great solo work from a terrific all night Sean Brown, as he turned Noel Healy just inside the box after a good run, but he saw his effort cannon off the crossbar.

Five minutes before the break, having barely been troubled, Ballymena were almost caught out by a quick free kick which played in Salley, but he could only fire over, before McCurry benefitted from the break of the ball after a threatening Taylor run, but struck straight at Mitchell, as a not particularly pretty, but certainly dominant half for United, ended scoreless.

Given both sides have found goals and form hard to come by all season, with Newry winless at home and United netting only six times on their travels, a goalless first half wasn't overly surprising, and Ballymena's goalscoring problems were laid bare once more five minutes into the second half. Again, it came via Brown down the right as he fired another low ball into the box, where he found McMurray in space, but the forward completely missed the ball to see the chance go. Three minutes later an almost identical ball from Brown caused more problems for Newry, but Ryan McGivern was on hand to clear the danger just ahead of McMurray and McCurry.

Following those chances, the next twenty or so minutes yielded barely a chance, but the Sky Blues were completely on top and if a goal was to come, it would surely go Ballymena's way. With nineteen minutes to go, McMurray made way for Noah Stewart, and just two minutes after coming on, Stewart finally put Ballymena ahead. It was the substitute who started things off with a dangerous run in from the left, before United's two standout players on the night, Taylor and Brown combined. Stewart found the Scotsman, who sent the ball out to Brown down the right, and this time one of his inch perfect low crosses was benefitted from as he found Noah Stewart, who had continued his run, and he tapped in at close range in front of the travelling Sky Blues.

Having watched their side dominate, those who travelled down were relieved to see United finally move ahead, but that relief turned to disbelief just three minutes later as Newry equalised with virtually their only chance of the half. A slip from Kym Nelson, who had been solid all night, allowed Adam Salley in, though he saw his shot blocked wide, but from the resulting corner, Ballymena's set piece misery continued when Salley was left free as a bird in a crowded box to bullet a header home in a massive couple of minutes at the foot of the standings.

Now somehow not ahead, Ervin's men had to make sure they didn't inexplicably leave Newry with nothing, and whilst both teams tried to get the ball forward in the final ten minutes, neither had that bit of quality to create an opening, let alone win it. In the dying embers Ballymena had a couple of free kicks to deal with, but did so with relative ease, as the bottom two played out a second draw at the Newry Showgrounds this season to keep the gap between the sides to six points, but Ballymena may be left wondering how the buffer isn't nine.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at February 9th, 2024)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 30 - 93 -
Steven McCullough29 3112409
Daithi McCallion18 1 - 1 -
Jamie Robinson21 5 - 5 -
Sean Brown18 6 - 6 -
Fraser Taylor20 312312
Dylan Boyle22 23 - 23 -
Donal Rocks23 22 - 22 -
Kym Nelson28 26 - 815
Calvin McCurry22 3 - 3 -
Jonathan McMurray29 21411936
Michael Leddy (sub)20 2 - 2 -
Michael Place (sub)25 292898
Noah Stewart (sub)19 227227

League Table (as at February 9th, 2024)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 28 20 7 1 67
2. Linfield 27 21 2 4 65
3. Cliftonville 27 19 4 4 61
4. Glentoran 26 13 6 7 45
5. Crusaders 27 12 5 10 41
6. Coleraine 27 9 5 13 32
7. Loughgall 27 9 4 14 31
8. Carrick 27 9 3 15 30
9. Glenavon 26 9 2 15 29
10. Dungannon 27 7 6 14 27
11. BALLYMENA 28 5 4 19 19
12. Newry 27 3 4 20 13