Ballymena United 0
Carrick Rangers 2
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
0 - 2
Carrick 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, March 16th, 2024
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 775
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
None. James Teelan (33)
Nedas Maciulaitis (88)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Stuart KIng

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
29. Sean Brown
39. Daithi McCallion
31. Jamie Robinson
35. Brendan Barr
28. Dylan Boyle
17. Andrew McGrory
30. Michael Place
16. Fraser Taylor
21. Lewis Tennant
36. Calvin McCurry
Ross Glendinning .1
Cameron Stewart .3
Albert Watson .5
David Cushley .7
Andrew Mitchell .8
Nedas Maciulaitis .11
Lewis MacKinnon .12
Benjamin Buchanan-Rolleston .15
Joe Crowe .19
Daniel Gibson .24
James Teelan .30

Bench
26. Sam Johnston
32. Shea McAuley
34. Ben Mallon
41. James Hood
23. David Taylor
27. Jonathan McMurray
7. Alex Gawne
Ben McCauley .25
Steven Gordon .6
Emmett McGuckin .9
Curtis Allen .10
Kyle Cherry .20
Jaydyn Withers .22
Ben Tilney .39

Substitutions
James Hood for Andrew McGrory (61)
David Taylor for Michael Place (70)
Jonathan McMurray for Lewis Tennant (78)
Steven Gordon for Joe Crowe (90)
Emmett McGuckin for Nedas Maciulaitis (90)
Curtis Allen for Daniel Gibson (90)
Kyle Cherry for David Cushley (90)
Jaydyn Withers for James Teelan (90)

Cautions
Jamie Robinson (33)
Albert Watson (16)
Cameron Stewart (22)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Tony Clarke (Referee)
Kristian Hanna & David Burns (Assistants)
Michael McKenna (Fourth Official)




Match Report


Ballymena United's winless league start to 2024 continued as a disappointing showing led to a 2-0 defeat to Carrick Rangers at a weather battered Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

After defeat to Crusaders a week ago, injury and suspension forced Jim Ervin into three changes, as Lewis Tennant, Andy McGrory and Brendan Barr came in for Kym Nelson, Steven McCullough and Donal Rocks.

At a soaking wet Warden Street, which left a less than desirable surface, United were in desperate need of points in their penultimate game before the split, but in a quiet opening it was the visitors who made the better start in terms of chances. Inside five minutes Danny Gibson embarked on a threatening run down the left wing before eventually swinging a ball in for David Cushley, who saw his volley into the ground fly over the crossbar.

With twenty minutes gone it was all pretty even, with Ballymena better on the ball but Carrick more dangerous going forward, and when Cushley tried his luck again from distance, Sean O'Neill did well to hold onto it, before at the other end Ballymena's first proper chance saw Jamie Robinson head a corner narrowly over.

With the clock approaching the half hour mark, the Braidmen suffered an all too familiar fate this season as they found themselves a goal down. The hosts partially cleared a corner out as far as Cushley, whose strike was again only partially cleared to James Teelan, but his stunning strike on the half volley from outside the box left O'Neill no chance as it flew past him to give Carrick a lead.

That goal just before thirty minutes was it in terms of chances in the half, right up until a decent chance in the dying embers. From United's point of view, it wasn't all bad as they looked to play a bit on a squelching pitch, but the lack of chances being created was as glaringly obvious as it had been all season, with virtually nothing in the final third. That good chance unsurprisingly came from a set piece, and it was a fair opportunity for Daithi McCallion, but he put his free header wide from a free kick, though the fact the Sky Blues' only two first half chances fell to centre backs off set pieces, was testament to how hard they found it to create in open play.

Ballymena's first half performance had shown plenty of huffing and puffing, but ultimately little quality, but they failed to build on any good aspects of the opening half in what was a desperately poor second half. The Gers started the second half with a flurry of shots from range, with the furthest of those coming from Gibson who spotted O'Neill off his line and had a pop from halfway, but his sighter never really threatened the goal.

In a ten minute spell around the hour mark, Ballymena produced their only period of chances in the half, and even then it wasn't much. Fraser Taylor tried his luck from distance, and whilst it was easily saved by Ross Glendinning, it did mark the first piece of work he'd really had to do all day, before Sean Brown won the ball high up the pitch and hit a low, stinging shot that Glendinning did well to tip round the post.

Straight after Brown's effort, McGrory was replaced by sixteen-year-old James Hood, and minutes later David Taylor came on for Mikey Place, which incredibly gave United an outfield of ten players who were all aged twenty-two and under.

A patient home end may have hoped those couple of attempts would inspire the Skies into action, but the final half hour was a difficult watch in truth, with next to nothing coming, while there wasn't a great deal coming from the away side either. With fifteen minutes to go Ballymena were caught out at the back allowing Carrick in two on one, but Gibson was denied by a fantastic last ditch block by Hood.

Heading into the final ten minutes, Johnny McMurray, some seven years the senior of the next eldest outfield player, came on for Tennant as Ballymena tried to get something going, but it felt like they could've played on all week without creating a chance or scoring, and with two minutes to go Carrick made sure Ballymena would be condemned to defeat again with a second. Cushley was afforded far too much time and space to have a crack from thirty yards, and when his strike was spilled by O'Neill it fell to Nedas Maciulaitis who simply tapped home.

It's now eight defeats in nine league games for Ballymena in 2024, on a dismal day weather wise, and another difficult day in terms of performance, ahead of a huge few weeks.

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



Squad Statistics (as at March 16th, 2024)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 34 - 97 -
Sean Brown18 9 - 9 -
Daithi McCallion18 5 - 5 -
Jamie Robinson21 9 - 9 -
Brendan Barr22 4 - 41 -
Dylan Boyle22 27 - 27 -
Andrew McGrory32 17 - 15825
Michael Place25 332938
Fraser Taylor21 353353
Lewis Tennant19 17 - 18 -
Calvin McCurry22 7 - 7 -
James Hood (sub) - 3 - 3 -
David Taylor (sub)17 6 - 6 -
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 24412236



League Table (as at March 16th, 2024)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 32 23 8 1 77
2. Linfield 32 24 3 5 75
3. Cliftonville 32 22 4 6 70
4. Glentoran 32 15 8 9 53
5. Crusaders 32 15 7 10 52
6. Coleraine 32 11 7 14 40
7. Carrick 32 11 5 16 38
8. Loughgall 32 10 6 16 36
9. Glenavon 32 10 4 18 34
10. Dungannon 32 8 7 17 31
11. BALLYMENA 32 5 4 23 19
12. Newry 32 4 5 23 17