Glentoran 4
Ballymena United 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


Glentoran 

4 - 0

Ballymena United


League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, March 23rd, 2024
The Oval
3:00 PM Kick-off


Goalscorers
Luke McCullough (21)
Daire O'Connor (60)
Shay McCartan (63)
Daire O'Connor (66)
None.

Team Managers
Declan Devine Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Aaron McCarey
4. Luke McCullough
5. Aidan Wilson
6. Bobby Burns
7. Shay McCartan
11. Daire O'Connor
12. James Singleton
15. Fuad Sule
22. Patrick McClean
38. Niall McGinn
40. Junior
Sean O'Neill .1
Sean Brown .29
Daithi McCallion .39
Jamie Robinson .31
Steven McCullough .11
Michael Place .30
Fraser Taylor .16
Brendan Barr .35
Lewis Tennant .21
Dylan Boyle .28
Calvin McCurry .36

Bench
25. Oliver Webber
8. Rhys Marshall
9. Jay Donnelly
16. Seanan Clucas
18. Harry Murphy
32. Kirk McLaughlin
46. Theo McToal
Sam Johnston .26
Shea McAuley .32
Scot Whiteside .5
James Hood .41
Alex Gawne .7
Jonathan McMurray .27
David Taylor .23

Substitutions
Rhys Marshall for Luke McCullough (67)
Jay Donnelly for Junior (67)
Seanan Clucas for Bobby Burns (67)
Harry Murphy for Patrick McClean (79)
Theo McToal for Fuad Sule (79)
Alex Gawne for Lewis Tennant (63)
Jonathan McMurray for Calvin McCurry (63)
Scot Whiteside for Daithi McCallion (86)
James Hood for Brendan Barr (86)

Cautions
Shay McCartan (43)
Seanan Clucas (70)
None.

Red Cards
None. Michael Place (49)

Match Officials

Keith Kennedy (Referee)
Stephen Bell & Rachel Greer (Assistants)
Michael McKenna (Fourth Official)





Match Report


An all too familiar story of a second half collapse saw ten-man Ballymena United suffer a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of Glentoran on another draining day at The Oval on Saturday afternoon.

Off the back of just one point in their last eight games, which came against a Newry side helping keep United off the bottom of the table, Jim Ervin made just the one change from last week's loss to Carrick, as Steven McCullough returned in place of Andy McGrory, whilst there was the welcome addition back to the matchday squad for skipper Scot Whiteside.

At an East Belfast venue that was battered early on with heavy rain and winds to make for unpleasant playing conditions, United started brightly in an even opening twenty minutes. Aaron McCarey was the first of the 'keepers to be worked when a deep Mikey Place free kick forced the Glens stopper to parry it round the post, whilst Glentoran's first chance saw Junior flick wide a free kick from Shay McCartan.

After a solid twenty minutes of work for Ballymena that included an effective, well-timed press and half a threat going forward, there was no doubt immense frustration when slack play at the back eventually led to a corner, which then led to a home goal, twenty-two minutes in. Under little pressure, a hospital pass outside their own box put the Skies under it, before in time Bobby Burns saw a long range effort forced wide by Sean O'Neill. However, from the resulting corner United were once again done from a set piece, as the delivery was allowed to drop and pin ball in the box, before Luke McCullough slammed home into the roof of the net.

The remaining twenty-five or so minutes of the first half weren't much of a spectacle, with neither goalkeeper really having anything to do. Given Ballymena's struggles all season in front of goal, a lack of chance creation wasn't a surprise, but outside of that it had been a half of more positives than negatives with the Braidmen well in the game and helping limit Declan Devine's Glentoran to little, with the only obvious disappointment more untidy set piece defending that resulted in the Sky Blues being one down at the break.

The second half proved to follow very little of the pattern of the first, in what was a disastrous period from start to the finish for the visitors. Inside three minutes of the restart, McCartan poked wide a cross from Niall McGinn, but a minute later United were reduced to ten men with a controversial call. In the middle of the park, Place stretched for a high ball which he flicked away before his boot collided high on the incoming Fuad Sule, but with Place having no idea Sule was behind him, both sets of players looked surprised as Keith Kennedy swiftly reached for his red card, in a decision that rightly angered Jim Ervin.

Now firmly up against it being a goal down and a man down, Ballymena had their work cut out to stay in the game, but the disadvantage of numbers was little excuse for a calamitous period that followed in which United shipped three goals in six minutes. There was a warning shot just after Place's dismissal when McCartan should've scored a squared ball from Daire O'Connor, only to place his shot wide, but on the hour mark it was 2-0. James Singleton stood up a cross from the left to Aidan Wilson at the back post, who knocked it across goal to O'Connor, and despite just about connecting with the ball from six yards, it was enough to see the ball trundle over the line.

Just three minutes later, Glentoran had a third with a goal the visitors back line won't want to see back. Burns slid a ball through for Junior who scuffed it back across the six-yard box after getting to it just ahead of O'Neill, but from there McCartan, stood in the middle of four sky blue shirts, completely miskicked his effort, but with Ballymena all over the show the ball somehow trickled in.

Johnny McMurray and Alex Gawne were introduced after the third, marking Gawne's first involvement in 2024 after a long injury lay off, but it wasn't a happy return as two minutes later he saw his side concede a fourth goal, and a third in six minutes, as Ballymena completely crumbled for the countless time this season. A frustrated away end watched on in bemusement at more bewildering defending, as McGinn overlapped on the left and his low cross found O'Connor, who got across his marker with far too much ease, before he poked a finish into the far post past a static O'Neill.

With the game long gone, and damage limitation not going great either, the away side looked floored and surely feared things getting much worse, but thankfully that was it for goals. As Glentoran eased off, the Braidmen had some better moments towards the end, as McMurray and Gawne both fired efforts narrowly wide, before McMurray, who looked bright off the bench, called McCarey into two good stops with his feet, and the 'keeper also denied Fraser Taylor.

O'Connor let a good chance to complete his hattrick pass him by late on when more poor defending allowed McGinn to burst forward and pick out O'Connor, but he blasted over from close range, but in the end it was another dismal day for United, albeit not helped by the questionable red card, as they ended the regular season with another worrying quick fire collapse, and they head into a simply massive set of split fixtures teetering on the edge of the drop, with huge improvements required.

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



Squad Statistics (as at March 23rd, 2024)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 35 - 98 -
Jamie Robinson22 10 - 10 -
Sean Brown18 10 - 10 -
Daithi McCallion18 6 - 6 -
Steven McCullough29 3512449
Fraser Taylor21 363363
Brendan Barr22 5 - 42 -
Lewis Tennant19 18 - 19 -
Michael Place25 342948
Dylan Boyle22 28 - 28 -
Calvin McCurry22 8 - 8 -
Scot Whiteside (sub)26 3111292
James Hood (sub) - 4 - 4 -
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 25412336
Alex Gawne (sub)22 192192



League Table (as at March 23rd, 2024)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 32 23 8 1 77
2. Linfield 32 24 3 5 75
3. Cliftonville 31 21 4 6 67
4. Glentoran 33 16 8 9 56
5. Crusaders 33 16 7 10 55
6. Coleraine 33 11 8 14 41
7. Loughgall 33 11 6 16 39
8. Carrick 32 11 5 16 38
9. Glenavon 33 10 4 19 34
10. Dungannon 33 8 8 17 32
11. BALLYMENA 33 5 4 24 19
12. Newry 33 4 5 24 17
13. 25th Old Boys 1 1 0 0 3