Ballymena United 4
Newry Town (City) 0
League (NIFL Premiership)

Ballymena United
4 - 0

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, April 20th, 2024
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 973
3:00 PM Kick-off

Noah Stewart (21)
Noah Stewart (45)
Calvin McCurry (52)
Steven McCullough (pen.) (79)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Dermot McVeigh

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
29. Sean Brown
39. Daithi McCallion
11. Steven McCullough
35. Brendan Barr
28. Dylan Boyle
16. Fraser Taylor
21. Lewis Tennant
7. Alex Gawne
36. Calvin McCurry
33. Noah Stewart
Steven Maguire .1
Darren King .2
Noel Healy .3
Ryan McGivern .4
John McGovern .11
Adam Salley .14
Liam Bagnall .16
Lorcan Forde .24
Alex O'Brien .27
Jordan Mooney .36
Brandon Doyle .44

26. Sam Johnston
32. Shea McAuley
31. Jamie Robinson
17. Andrew McGrory
30. Michael Place
4. Donal Rocks
27. Jonathan McMurray
Conor Mitchell .12
Adam Carroll .8
Stephen Moan .18
Donal Scullion .33
Georgie Poynton .38
Jamie McDonagh .42

Donal Rocks for Alex Gawne (58)
Shea McAuley for Lewis Tennant (58)
Andrew McGrory for Sean Brown (68)
Michael Place for Brendan Barr (68)
Jonathan McMurray for Noah Stewart (80)
Adam Carroll for Jordan Mooney (45)
Georgie Poynton for John McGovern (46)
Conor Mitchell for Steven Maguire (55)
Donal Scullion for Alex O'Brien (80)

Sean Brown (57)
Brendan Barr (61)
Lorcan Forde (11)
John McGovern (11)
Adam Salley (16)
Liam Bagnall (43)
Ryan McGivern (78)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Ian McNabb (Referee)
Adam Jeffrey & Stephen Donaldson (Assistants)
Ben McMaster (Fourth Official)

Match Report

A dominant Ballymena United maintained their strong form in the post-split fixtures as they defeated a now relegated Newry City 4-0 at The Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

After a midweek victory over Glenavon secured Ballymena 11th spot and a now guaranteed relegation play-off, Jim Ervin made just the one, enforced change as Lewis Tennant came into the back five to replace the suspended Scot Whiteside. Before kick-off, Ballymena United held their annual minute of silence in memory of those no longer with us over the course of the last year, which as ever was perfectly observed.

With the pressure now perhaps off for a couple of games before a mammoth two games in the play-off, the Braidmen started well in the sunshine. Inside a minute, Steven McCullough's long ball between two defenders was latched onto by Calvin McCurry who then tried to lift the ball over Steven Maguire, but the 'keeper was able to reach up and bat the ball down. A few minutes later, Noah Stewart tested Maguire from twenty-five yards and forced the goalkeeper to parry round his post, but on twenty-one minutes Stewart wasn't to be denied as the hosts went ahead. Sean Brown, a threat all day, moved down the right and found Fraser Taylor, who opted to take the ball to the byline instead of shooting, and he found Calvin McCurry who forced a good save out Maguire. However, Stewart was in the right place for the follow up from the save, and the striker easily tapped home from close range for 1-0.

Having been all Ballymena up until the opener, there was a bit of a drop in levels after the goal which allowed Newry into the game, and two minutes after conceding they probably should've been level. A ball into the box somehow found Newry left two on one, but Jordan Mooney couldn't sort his feet to get a shot away, and when he passed across goal for Adam Salley to tap into an empty net, the striker was offside.

More away chances came as their bright spell went on, and after John McGovern had a curling effort deflect narrowly wide, Sean O'Neill pulled off a save of the highest class inside the six-yard box to deny Salley, after he'd been picked out by Lorcan Forde.

In the final few minutes, the Sky Blues regained control and with virtually the last kick of the half Ballymena, and Stewart, had their second. From a throw in near the corner flag, Brendy Barr did wonderfully to hold off his man and head to the byline, where he then showed great composure to pick out Stewart in the box, and his shot took a big deflection off Ryan McGivern to totally wrong foot Maguire and put United in control.

The first half had been mostly United bar that off spell following the opener, but the second half was almost total domination from the home side. It was so close to being 3-0 when McCurry reacted well to a slack back pass and got to it just ahead of Maguire, but the ball rolled wide of the post by inches. Shortly afterwards Dylan Boyle, outstanding yet again in the middle, teed up Stewart for another long-range effort that was tipped wide by Maguire, but a minute later it was pretty much game over as Ballymena found a third. Daithi McCallion's long ball found Brown close to the corner flag, and he got a richly deserved goal involvement when his low cross was attacked by McCurry, the goalkeeper Maguire and two defenders, and in amongst the tangle of bodies and legs McCurry was able to poke home his second goal of the week.

The collision of players in Ballymena's third goal left Maguire unable to continue between the sticks, as he was replaced by Conor Mitchell, and one of his first jobs was picking the ball out of the net, but it wasn't for a fourth United goal as the flag went up to deny Stewart the match ball from a good header after great play by McCurry. City should've had a goal back with a rare second half chance as Salley went through, only to get the rounding of O'Neill all wrong, and at the other end, Brown, now at left wing back after Alex Gawne made way for Donal Rocks, cut inside and fired narrowly wide.

With twelve minutes to go, and Ballymena advancing forward at will, they had the chance to make it four from the penalty spot. A cross from the right via McCurry struck McGivern inside the box and referee Ian McNabb felt it hit an outstretched arm, but even with today's handball rule, it looked incredibly harsh. McCullough stepped up and he sent Mitchell the wrong way to convert his second penalty in the split and extend Ballymena's lead.

Late on United continued their assault on Newry's goal as they chased a fifth. Substitute Johnny McMurray did well to chase a long ball and bring a save out of Mitchell, before great feet from McCurry led to him getting an even better stop from the 'keeper, with sub Andy McGrory blasting the rebound well over, before Taylor then sent a diving header wide.

In added time Ballymena had substitute Shea McAuley to thank for their second clean sheet in five days when he produced a superb goal saving tackle in the six yard box, on what was a day of dominance from Ballymena who were excellent, as they continue to build much needed confidence and momentum ahead of Dungannon on the final day, and then the relegation play-off, with their opponents in it to be confirmed on Friday night.

Squad Statistics (as at April 20th, 2024)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)36 39 - 102 -
Sean Brown19 14 - 14 -
Daithi McCallion19 10 - 10 -
Steven McCullough29 39324811
Brendan Barr22 9 - 46 -
Dylan Boyle22 32 - 32 -
Fraser Taylor21 404404
Lewis Tennant19 21 - 22 -
Alex Gawne22 233233
Calvin McCurry22 122122
Noah Stewart20 28102810
Shea McAuley (sub)17 5 - 5 -
Donal Rocks (sub)23 28 - 28 -
Andrew McGrory (sub)32 18 - 15925
Michael Place (sub)26 352958
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 29412736

League Table (as at April 20th, 2024)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 36 26 8 2 86
2. Linfield 36 26 5 5 83
3. Cliftonville 37 23 5 9 74
4. Crusaders 37 19 7 11 64
5. Glentoran 37 16 9 12 57
6. Carrick 37 14 5 18 47
7. Coleraine 37 12 10 15 46
8. Dungannon 37 12 8 17 44
9. Loughgall 37 12 6 19 42
10. Glenavon 37 11 4 22 37
11. BALLYMENA 37 8 4 25 28
12. Newry 37 4 5 28 17