Queens University 0
Ballymena United 4
Irish Cup (Round 5)

Queens Uni. 

0 - 4

Ballymena United

Irish Cup (Round 5)
Saturday, January 6th, 2024
The Dub
1:30 PM Kick-off

None. Steven McCullough (38)
Noah Stewart (45)
Michael Place (51)
Cathair Friel (81)

Team Managers
James Lavery Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Nathan Kerr
2. Jack Ovens
3. Leon Bonnes
4. Joshua Corry
5. Tommy Smyth
6. Johnny Mairs
7. Lorcan McIlroy
8. Ben Mulgrew
9. Ciaran O'Hare
10. Christopher Middleton
11. Michael Withers
Sam Johnston .26
Steven McCullough .11
Scot Whiteside .5
Jamie Robinson .31
Dylan Boyle .28
Michael Place .30
Donal Rocks .4
Fraser Taylor .16
Lewis Tennant .21
Noah Stewart .33
Ryan Waide .10

20. Andrew Gawne
12. Johnny McCullough
14. Marc McKenna
15. Matthew McManus
16. Ryan Irvine
17. Louis Scott
18. Matthew Hughes
Colby Davidson .40
Shea McAuley .32
Sean Brown .29
Andrew McGrory .17
Cathair Friel .9
Jonathan McMurray .27
Fiontan O'Boyle .15

Johnny McCullough for Ciaran O'Hare (56)
Matthew McManus for Tommy Smyth (56)
Marc McKenna for Lorcan McIlroy (65)
Ryan Irvine for Leon Bonnes (78)
Cathair Friel for Noah Stewart (58)
Sean Brown for Michael Place (58)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Ryan Waide (78)
Shea McAuley for Jamie Robinson (78)

Christopher Middleton (85) None.

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Lee Tavinder (Referee)
Rachel Greer & Maria Creaney (Assistants)
Conor Murphy (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Ballymena United eased their way into the Sixth Round of the Clearer Water Irish Cup with a 4-0 victory over Queens University early on Saturday afternoon at the Dub.

As United got yet another Irish Cup campaign underway, having been beaten finalists in the last two editions, Jim Ervin made three changes from last Saturday's emotional win over Glenavon, including a rare start for Sam Johnston and a debut for loanee signing Jamie Robinson.

With Queens sitting second in the Intermediate league after a bright start to their season, this had all the makings of being a tough tie for the Braidmen on a tight pitch in the capital, and the first half was at times a difficult assignment. From the off, it was clear the visitors would dominate the ball, but they were made to bide their time for chances early on. In the opening fifteen minutes United's only two efforts were long range ones from Mikey Place, but first he fired straight at Nathan Kerr, before the same man sent a half volley well wide.

Whilst the hosts were doing well at the back to keep United quiet, they were struggling to get the ball to stick up front for themselves on a bumpy pitch, and their only effort at all inside the opening forty minutes saw Johnny Mairs fire well wide on the turn.

Eventually, the Sky Blues began to look a little more threatening more often as they looked repeatedly to switch play wide, but it was off a couple of set pieces that they almost broke the deadlock. Lewis Tennant saw a header from a corner deflected narrowly over the crossbar, before Steven McCullough sent a free kick wide by a matter of inches, but after Ryan Waide also went close by lifting the ball over the 'keeper but also the bar, it was McCullough who gave United a thirty-eighth minute lead. From another corner down Ballymena's attacking right hand side, McCullough played it short to Fraser Taylor who laid it back to McCullough at the corner of the box, and the wing back's low ball across the box missed everyone in there and nestled in the bottom of the far corner.

The Upper Malone Road side looked to try and catch Ballymena out after the opener with a dangerous set piece a couple of minutes after McCullough's somewhat fortunate goal, and a glancing header from their skipper Benjamin Mulgrew wasn't too far away from going in, but on the stroke of half time the visitors doubled their lead in style. A cross from Taylor was aimed for Waide in the mixer, but was cleared relatively well by the Queens back line, but when it dropped to Noah Stewart on the edge of the box he delivered a stunning strike on the volley into the bottom corner as United came out of a difficult half in which they were made to work, with a two goal advantage.

The Braidmen started the second period strongly as they looked to strengthen their hold further on a ticket to the sixth round, and after Place had pulled another couple of good stop's out of Kerr, particularly with a second effort after great work by Taylor and Donal Rocks, Place finally got the goal he'd been threatening all day on fifty-two minutes. A long ball forward was met by Waide who headed into the path of Stewart, and he laid it off for Place to stride onto and blast home emphatically first time from the edge of the D.

With that surely that for the tie as a contest given Queens' lack of threat, Place joined Stewart in making way shortly after the third goal, as they were replaced by Cathair Friel and Sean Brown, who made his debut for United after signing on loan yesterday from Larne.

As the next twenty minutes or so ticked away without any incident, Jim Ervin used the opportunity to get more minutes into legs as he went back to his bench to introduce Fiontan O'Boyle and Shea McAuley, who replaced Waide and Robinson, who had made a good opening impression on those who had travelled with a strong and vocal performance at the back.

Heading into the final ten minutes there was a sense that there was probably another goal in the encounter for Ballymena, and with eight minutes to go they found it via Friel. A dangerous long ball from Rocks towards Brown down the right ended with the ball falling for O'Boyle, who struck straight at the 'keeper from close range, but the follow up fell for Friel who did well to take a good touch and pick out the bottom corner for his first United goal since his return.

4-0 is how it finished, in a cup tie in which Ballymena were very rarely troubled and did all the running despite a tricky opening half hour, as they make it into round six with a W at the Dub, and it's three wins on the spin as well, ahead of a huge game with Dungannon next week.

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

Squad Statistics (as at January 6th, 2024)

2023-2024 All Time
Sam Johnston (GK)27 3 - 10 -
Steven McCullough29 2612359
Scot Whiteside26 2711252
Jamie Robinson21 1 - 1 -
Dylan Boyle21 18 - 18 -
Michael Place25 241847
Donal Rocks23 18 - 18 -
Fraser Taylor20 261261
Lewis Tennant19 15 - 16 -
Noah Stewart19 186186
Ryan Waide23 21313718
Sean Brown (sub)18 1 - 1 -
Shea McAuley (sub)17 4 - 4 -
Cathair Friel (sub)30 5116771
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)19 171171

League Table (as at January 6th, 2024)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 24 19 2 3 59
2. Larne 24 16 7 1 55
3. Cliftonville 23 16 3 4 51
4. Crusaders 24 12 5 7 41
5. Glentoran 23 11 5 7 38
6. Coleraine 24 8 5 11 29
7. Loughgall 24 8 4 12 28
8. Carrick 24 8 3 13 27
9. Glenavon 24 8 2 14 26
10. Dungannon 24 5 6 13 21
11. BALLYMENA 24 5 3 16 18
12. Newry 24 3 3 18 12