Ballymena United 3
Knockbreda 4
County Antrim Shield (Round 1)

Ballymena United
3 - 4

County Antrim Shield (Round 1)
Tuesday, September 5th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
7:45 PM Kick-off

Colin Coates (24)
Jonathan McMurray (26)
Isaac Westendorf (77)
Guillaume Keke (11)
Lewis Higginson (19)
Guillaume Keke (71)
Lee McGreevy (84)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Colin McIlwrath

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
20. TJ Murray
6. Colin Coates
5. Scot Whiteside
19. Marc Walsh
2. Kym Nelson
4. Donal Rocks
16. Fraser Taylor
9. Cathair Friel
7. Alex Gawne
27. Jonathan McMurray
Ben Fry .1
Brandon Bradshaw .2
Callum McVeigh .3
Christian Irvine .4
Kyle Anderson .5
Conor Quinn .6
Conall Murray .7
Matthew Henry .8
Lee McGreevy .10
Guillaume Keke .11
Lewis Higginson .19

26. Sam Johnston
3. Corrie Burns
21. Lewis Tennant
14. John McGuigan
17. Andrew McGrory
37. Isaac Westendorf
15. Fiontan O'Boyle
Igor Rutkowski .9
Peter McDermott .12
Jake Willis .14
Ronan Kalla .15
Peter McKiernan .16
Ashton McDermott .17
Ross Murphy .18

Isaac Westendorf for Cathair Friel (56)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Alex Gawne (70)
John McGuigan for Marc Walsh (85)
Peter McDermott for Christian Irvine (37)
Ronan Kalla for Kyle Anderson (55)
Ross Murphy for Lewis Higginson (55)
Ashton McDermott for Conor Quinn (64)

Jonathan McMurray (42)
Kyle Anderson (10)
Conall Murray (55)
Brandon Bradshaw (90)
Igor Rutkowski (90)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Ben McMaster (Referee)
Mark O'Brien & Justin Maxwell (Assistants)

Match Report

Ballymena United are out of the Toals Co Antrim Shield after a disastrous 4-3 loss to Championship side Knockbreda at the Showgrounds on Tuesday evening.

In the opening round of the Shield, Jim Ervin made five changes from the loss to Glenavon, including a first start in his second spell for Cathair Friel, as the two pointless sides in the Premiership and Championship went up against each other.

After a torrid start in the league, this match gave United a chance to get their season started, but with twenty minutes on the clock the hosts already found themselves stunned as they trailed 2-0. A spot of miscommunication at the back on eleven minutes allowed Guillaume Keke to pounce for Breda, and he rounded Sean O'Neill before walking the ball into the net.

Before the visitors made it two, Ballymena should've levelled it when Alex Gawne pulled a good stop out of Benjamin Fry, before Friel's follow up was blocked on the line and Johnny McMurray fired over the third attempt.

On nineteen minutes the second came to shell shock the home stand. United were slack at the back again, and when the ball dropped to Lewis Higginson on the edge of the box, he drilled a lovely effort into the bottom corner.

Five minutes after Higginson's goal, the Braidmen got themselves back into it via Colin Coates. A deep corner was knocked back into the mixer and after Kym Nelson's shot was blocked, Colin Coates was on hand to finish the rebound.

Within two minutes it was 2-2. A delightful ball from Fraser Taylor into the path of Gawne set United away, and Gawne opted to slide the ball across goal instead of shooting, where Jonathan McMurray was waiting to finish.

The home side were well in the ascendancy now with their rapid comeback, and it was nearly 3-2 a minute after the second when Taylor struck the near post, before Friel was sent racing clear on his own, only to strike straight at Fry.

Towards the end of the half, Knockbreda came again with a second wind to put United under the cosh, and it took a super double block from Scot Whiteside to deny first Brandon Bradshaw and then Lee McGreevy, to keep things level at the break.

Ballymena were slow to start in the second half, which failed to get going for a good twenty minutes for both teams. With neither goalkeeper remotely troubled, a Ballymena change twelve minutes in saw Friel replaced by Isaac Westendorf, as the deadline day loan signing made his debut.

The Larne loanee brought a bit of life to the hosts with a hint of chaos up front, and after Coates had fired just wide, Westendorf burst through on goal, but his shot was too close to Fry.

Knockbreda weren't creating much, but continued to look a threat on the counter, and with nineteen minutes to go they stunned United again by retaking the lead. A long ball forward wasn't dealt with and Guillaume Keke certainly made the most of it with a stunning strike on the half volley from surely twenty-five yards.
That goal woke Ballymena up once more from their slumber and within six minutes there was a sixth goal to make it 3-3. TJ Murray's long ball found sub

Fiontan O'Boyle who did well to slide in Isaac Westendorf, who showed great strength and speed once more before slotting home a debut goal. Ballymena's hopes of avoiding an embarrassing defeat were strengthened a minute after their third goal when a high studs challenge by Kyle Anderson on Donal Rocks saw Anderson receive a straight red card.

However, the side sitting rock bottom of the Championship had another trick up their sleeve as they fired in a fourth goal to lead again with just six minutes to go. Prior to the goal, a stunning save from Fry denied Westendorf, but shortly afterwards Knockbreda caught United out again and another stunning goal saw Lee McGreevy hammer a volley from outside the box straight past O'Neill.

This time there would be no way back for Ervin's men, despite nearly eight minutes of added time. The visitors should've been down to nine men when Westendorf was hauled back by the last man outside the box, but bizarrely only a yellow was awarded, though McMurray's free kick went well wide anyway, as United suffered their lowest low out of a few already this season, to be dumped out of the Co. Antrim Shield and deepen the early season crisis.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at September 5th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 7 - 70 -
Scot Whiteside26 7 - 1051
TJ Murray28 5 - 5 -
Colin Coates37 4242
Donal Rocks23 3 - 3 -
Fraser Taylor20 5 - 5 -
Kym Nelson28 7 - 625
Marc Walsh22 4 - 4 -
Cathair Friel30 2 - 16470
Alex Gawne22 3 - 3 -
Jonathan McMurray28 7110533
John McGuigan (sub)30 7 - 7 -
Isaac Westendorf (sub)22 1111
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)18 5 - 5 -

League Table (as at September 5th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 6 5 1 0 16
2. Crusaders 6 4 2 0 14
3. Glentoran 6 4 1 1 13
4. Larne 6 3 3 0 12
5. Cliftonville 6 3 1 2 10
6. Loughgall 6 2 2 2 8
7. Coleraine 6 2 2 2 8
8. Carrick 6 2 1 3 7
9. Newry 6 2 0 4 6
10. Glenavon 6 1 1 4 4
11. Dungannon 6 0 2 4 2
12. BALLYMENA 6 0 0 6 0