Ballymena United 0
Larne 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
0 - 1
Larne 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, February 17th, 2024
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,178
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
None. Lee Bonis (8)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Tiernan Lynch

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
11. Steven McCullough
31. Jamie Robinson
39. Daithi McCallion
4. Donal Rocks
2. Kym Nelson
28. Dylan Boyle
16. Fraser Taylor
30. Michael Place
36. Calvin McCurry
33. Noah Stewart
Rohan Ferguson .1
Aaron Donnelly .4
Mark Randall .8
Lee Bonis .10
Levi Ives .14
Cian Bolger .18
Tomas Cosgrove .23
Sean Graham .24
Chris Gallagher .27
Andrew Ryan .29
Ro-Shaun Williams .35

Bench
26. Sam Johnston
34. Ben Mallon
32. Shea McAuley
21. Lewis Tennant
17. Andrew McGrory
27. Jonathan McMurray
23. David Taylor
Aidan McAdams .36
Daniel Kearns .7
Paul O'Neill .9
Scott Allan .11
Isaac Westendorf .17
Dylan Sloan .25
Jaziel Orozco .99

Substitutions
Andrew McGrory for Michael Place (78)
David Taylor for Fraser Taylor (85)
Jonathan McMurray for Calvin McCurry (85)
Isaac Westendorf for Lee Bonis (60)
Dylan Sloan for Mark Randall (60)
Jaziel Orozco for Sean Graham (71)

Cautions
Dylan Boyle (68)
Kym Nelson (80)
Aaron Donnelly (49)
Levis Ives (67)
Isaac Westendorf (74)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Shane Andrews (Referee)
Shane Geary & Brian Wilson (Assistants)
Tim Marshall (Fourth Official)




Match Report


An early Lee Bonis header was enough to give Larne a 1-0 win over Ballymena United in a tight encounter between the rivals at a wet Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

Eight days on from leaving bottom placed Newry with a point, Jim Ervin made two changes for the visit of table topping Larne, as Johnny McMurray dropped out, as did Sean Brown against his parent side, and in came Noah Stewart and Mikey Place.

On an extremely heavy pitch after plenty of rainfall up until kick off, Ballymena would've hoped to frustrate the champions just like they did in the scoreless draw in December, but that plan quickly became an issue as Larne opened the scoring inside eight minutes. From the middle of the pitch Mark Randall spread a ball out the left for Andy Ryan, and his cross into the six yard found his strike partner Lee Bonis who was inexplicably free, and he easily nodded home from close range.

After conceding another disappointing goal in and around their six-yard box, the Braidmen may have feared the worst, but they responded well to the goal in a half that had little chances, but also very little in it in general between the sides. After a really quiet fifteen minute spell, United almost broke the calm up with quite the storm when Place was presented with a glorious chance to level. Stewart sent a long ball over the top of the travelling centre half's that was latched onto by Place who raced clear, but it wasn't to be as one on one he fired straight at Rohan Ferguson.

That chance for Place was twenty-five minutes in, and it would take to just before the interval for another decent chance to come either sides way, as United more than matched Larne in the middle of the pitch, where the majority of the ball was. That chance before the break came the way of the visitors, when Randall pierced a free kick through the air over the sea of bodies in the box to find Bonis who had peeled off, but his powerful header was wonderfully saved by Sean O'Neill. Then, in time added on, United broke out for one last attack as the impressive Dylan Boyle advanced up the pitch and found Stewart, who teed up Calvin McCurry, but his drilled effort was blocked just wide as a really solid half from Ballymena ultimately ended with them trailing.

The second half very much followed the pattern of the first, with very little in it and very little chances. Again the Sky Blues were able to give as good as they got from Tiernan Lynch's men, but once again any dangerous looking moves in the final third just weren't happening. For the opening twenty minutes, neither 'keeper really needed to be there, with it taking until the sixty-fifth minute for O'Neill to have any cause for concern. Ryan flicked a ball into the path of Isaac Westendorf, back on Warden Street just a couple of weeks after returning to Larne from his United loan spell, and he got the ball into the path of another former Sky Blue in Sean Graham, who saw his shot across goal just go by the wrong side of the post.

That was really it for chances until the final fifteen minutes, with Ballymena pretty much faultless at the back to deny Larne any great looks at a second, but still the hosts couldn't do enough to carve out a chance to level. With thirteen to go, a corner was cleared only as far as Jaziel Orozco, not long off the bench, but his shot from twenty yards flew narrowly wide. Following that chance, the first movement from United's bench saw Andy McGrory replace Place, and late on Fraser Taylor and McCurry made way for Ben Mallon and Johnny McMurray, but none of those introduced could help Ballymena draw level.

More chances started to come the Invermen's way late on, as Ryan sent a free kick wide before Larne sprung onto loose play at the back from Ballymena, but a ball across goal missed the arriving Westendorf by inches. In five minutes of added time Ballymena were finally able to put some pressure on the Larne goal with a succession of corners and crosses into the box, but nothing would fall to a Sky Blue, and when it did, Kym Nelson fantastically found Stewart who pulled a top save out of Ferguson, but the flag went up for offside.

Not to be for United whose performances levels more than matched their title chasing Shane's Hill rivals, but they couldn't create enough to come away with anything more than a narrow loss.

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



Squad Statistics (as at February 17th, 2024)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 31 - 94 -
Jamie Robinson21 6 - 6 -
Daithi McCallion18 2 - 2 -
Steven McCullough29 3212419
Michael Place25 302908
Dylan Boyle22 24 - 24 -
Fraser Taylor20 322322
Kym Nelson28 27 - 825
Donal Rocks23 23 - 23 -
Calvin McCurry22 4 - 4 -
Noah Stewart19 237237
Andrew McGrory (sub)32 16 - 15725
David Taylor (sub)17 5 - 5 -
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 22412036



League Table (as at February 17th, 2024)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 29 21 7 1 70
2. Cliftonville 29 21 4 4 67
3. Linfield 29 21 3 5 66
4. Glentoran 28 14 7 7 49
5. Crusaders 29 13 6 10 45
6. Coleraine 29 10 5 14 35
7. Carrick 29 10 4 15 34
8. Loughgall 29 9 5 15 32
9. Glenavon 28 9 3 16 30
10. Dungannon 29 7 7 15 28
11. BALLYMENA 29 5 4 20 19
12. Newry 29 3 5 21 14