Linfield 1
Ballymena United 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


1 - 0

Ballymena United

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, August 26th, 2017
Windsor Park
Attendance: 1,711
3:00 PM Kick-off

Andrew Mitchell (pen.) (77) None.

Team Managers
David Healy David Jeffrey

Starting Eleven
1. Roy Carroll
2. Mark Stafford
5. Mark Haughey
10. Jordan Stewart
12. Kirk Millar
18. Chris Casement
22. Jamie Mulgrew
24. Robert Garrett
27. Andrew Mitchell
31. Niall Quinn
38. Paul Smyth
Conor Brennan .18
Andrew Burns .14
Jim Ervin .21
Jonathan Flynn .5
Tony Kane .2
Kyle Owens .4
Francis McCaffrey .24
Conor McCloskey .11
Gary Thompson .7
Cathair Friel .9
Joseph McKinney .26

3. Cameron Stewart
4. Joshua Robinson
8. Stephen Lowry
14. Aaron Burns
16. Matthew Clarke
Ross Glendinning .1
Steven McCullough .22
William Faulkner .12
Michael Gault .6
Matthew Shevlin .16

Aaron Burns for Jordan Stewart (26)
Stephen Lowry for Robert Garrett (64)
William Faulkner for Joseph McKinney (46)
Steven McCullough for Cathair Friel (81)
Matthew Shevlin for Francis McCaffrey (81)

Robert Garrett (55)
Stephen Lowry (85)
Tony Kane (9)
Jonathan Flynn (82)

Red Cards
None. Andrew Burns (79)

Match Officials

Evan Boyce (Referee)
Stephen Bell & Gavin Hegarty (Assistants)
Declan Hassan (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Ballymena United put in a much improved performance, despite losing 1-0 away to Linfield today.

David Jeffrey handed competitive debuts to goalkeeper Conor Brennan and Andrew Burns for the visit to the National Stadium. It was a fairly quiet start to the game for both sides with Ballymena seeking a first win of the campaign, whilst the hosts looked to keep their 100% start to the season. Tony Kane was booked early on for a foul but the resulting free kick was easily gathered by Brennan.

The first real opening came 10 minutes in for The Blues when Kirk Millar found the QPR bound Paul Smyth, but his dangerous cross missed everyone in the box. Not long after Smyth was involved again, this time skipping past Kyle Owens, Joe McKinney and then Jim Ervin, but his tame effort caused Brennan no problems.

As Ballymena started to become more involved, the visitor's first chance came on 16 minutes. Fra McCaffrey and Cathair Friel linked up nicely before Gary Thompson had the chance to shot, but he couldn't catch the shot cleanly enough to trouble Roy Carroll.

However a minute later Carroll was called into action to stop McKinney. The midfielder easily passed Mark Stafford and Carroll was forced to tip his low shot out for a corner. Linfield summer signing Jordan Stewart had a go from all of 25 yards on 21 minutes, but his attempt was always heading over the bar. Minutes later Stewart picked up an injury and was replaced by Andrew Burns' brother Aaron.

And it was Linfield's Burns who helped tee up Robert Garrett on the half hour mark, but Garrett drilled his shot wide of United's post. Johnny Flynn nearly gave Linfield the lead in bizarre fashion when the spin on a cross from Aaron Burns caused the United defender to loop the ball backwards just over his own crossbar.

With 5 minutes of the half left Linfield tried a corner routine off the training ground but Stafford's strike ended up in the Kop stand. In the final 5 minutes United looked increasingly dangerous but just couldn't carve out clear cut chances as the half ended in stalemate.

At half time Willie Faulkner made his first appearance of the new season, replacing Joe McKinney. The Sky Blues picked up were they left off at the start of the second half as they continued to give Linfield plenty to think about. McCaffrey and Friel worked well together again and Friel picked out Thompson who had a header cleared by Stafford.

3 minutes into the half Ballymena couldn't have went closer and only a great Carroll save prevented United leading. A long Conor McCloskey throw-in was controlled by the chest of Owens, before the defender hit it on the volley, with Northern Ireland international Carroll having to tip the ball over the bar when the ball looked destined for the top corner.

Linfield's first chances of the half came 10 minutes in. First Millar headed a floating Smyth cross well over and then McCaffrey did well to clear a Mark Haughey header off the far post. Linfield could've taken the lead just before the hour mark when Smyth beat the offside trap and broke through, but from an awkward angle he couldn't find the target. With 24 minutes left it was Brennan's turn to pull off an acrobatic save. From 20 yards Smyth tried his luck with a dipping effort, but United's 'keeper was able to put it behind for a corner.

On 76 minutes Linfield were handed a great chance to break the deadlock when Andrew Mitchell was brought down in the box by sub Faulkner. Andrew Mitchell picked himself up to take the spot kick and sent Brennan the wrong way to give Linfield the lead.

Just two minutes later Ballymena's day got worse when Burns received a straight red for a strong tackle on Blues captain Jamie Mulgrew.

Despite nothing there to split the two sides for the majority of the game, the goal and red card set United back as they struggled to create chances late on. Linfield almost made sure of the result with 5 minutes left but Millar somehow couldn't turn the ball home from close range.

David Jeffrey turned to Steven McCullough and Matthew Shevlin to try and find an equaliser, and in added time Shevlin went down in the box, but the referee waved penalty claims away as, despite a strong showing, United fell to a third defeat in four to start the season.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at August 26th, 2017)

2017-2018 All Time
Conor Brennan (GK)23 1 - 1 -
Andrew Burns25 2 - 2 -
Jim Ervin32 5 - 1322
Jonathan Flynn27 6 - 423
Tony Kane29 6123934
Kyle Owens25 4 - 507
Francis McCaffrey24 3 - 255
Conor McCloskey25 6 - 386
Gary Thompson27 2 - 17318
Cathair Friel24 6 - 5123
Joseph McKinney23 6 - 211
Steven McCullough (sub)22 2 - 2 -
William Faulkner (sub)27 2 - 7510
Matthew Shevlin (sub)18 41376

League Table (as at August 26th, 2017)

Pld W D L +/- Pts

* - Table split into two divisions of six.