Ballymena United 2
Armagh City 2
League (Irish Premier League)

Ballymena United
2 - 2
Armagh City 

League (Irish Premier League)
Saturday, November 4th, 2006
Ballymena Showgrounds
3:00 PM Kick-off

Mark Picking (26)
Mark Picking (85)
Kieran O'Connor (7)
James Slater (75)

Team Managers
Tommy Wright

Starting Eleven
Paul Murphy
Nigel Boyd
Aaron Callaghan
Darren Murphy
Gordon Simms
Albert Watson
Mark Picking
Garth Scates
Aidan Watson
Austin Friel
Kevin Kelbie
Philip McBurney
Johnny Cowan
Mark Gracey
Kieran O'Connor
James Slater

Gary Haveron
Stuart King
Darren Fitzgerald

Stuart King for Darren Murphy (58)
Darren Fitzgerald for Nigel Boyd (74)
Gary Haveron for Garth Scates (86)

None. None.

Red Cards
Kevin Kelbie (68)
Kieran O'Connor (26)
Match Officials

Ken Ginnett (Newtownabbey) (Referee)

Match Report

BALLYMENA United's hopes of rising up the Carnegie Premier League table after a period of difficult games suffered a blow when they were held to a 2-2 home draw by bottom club Armagh City today.

Indeed, the Sky Blues were grateful to winger Mark Picking's late strike - the same player had also scored Ballymena's first half goal in controversial circumstances - to prevent an embarrassing defeat.

Both sides also finished with 10 men after Kevin Kelbie's sending off in the second period cancelled out the first half dismissal of Kieran O'Connor.

Without the injured Paul Brown, Austin Friel was handed a place in the starting line-up and he almost responded in the best possible way when his shot was turned around the post by Armagh keeper Gavin Cushley after just 16 seconds.

Instead, the opening goal went the way of the visitors in the seventh minutes, thanks to a wonderful striker from Kieran O'Connor. The midfielder collected the ball in the middle of the park and shimmied past a couple of Ballymena challenges before dinking a perfectly measured chip over keeper Paul Murphy from 22 yards.

United struggled to regain their composure with Darren Murphy blazing a shot over and Kelbie heading over from six yards from a Murphy free kick.

But Ballymena did get back into the game amid contentious circumstances on 26 minutes. As full-back Aaron Callaghan crossed the ball from the right, assistant referee David Redfern immediately raised his flag to signal offside. As the deep cross floated over Cushley's head, Mark Picking - who had run from deep - came in behind the keeper to head home from close-range.

Referee Ken Ginnett consulted with Redfern before over-ruling his assistant and awarding the goal and in the protests which followed, O'Connor was shown a straight red card for dissent.

Despite having a man advantage, Ballymena struggled to make an impact, although Gordon Simms should have done better than to screw a shot wide from close-range after Albert Watson had headed down Friel's corner.

United's hopes were dealt a blow on 68 minutes when Kelbie was sent off for a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle close to the corner flag on Johnny Cowan. He had been cautioned in the first half for a similar challenge on Philip McBirney.

Worse was to follow on 75 minutes when Simms was dispossessed on the edge of his own penalty area by Liam Cullen who then slipped a pass into the path of James Slater, who fired past Murphy.

But Ballymena grabbed a lifeline with an equaliser five minutes later. Picking start this move with a mazy run into the Armagh half before slipping the ball wide to Darren Fitzgerald. The substitute crossed low into the Armagh penalty area where the ball bounced fortuitously off a defender's foot and straight into the path of Picking who rifled it high into the net.

Both sides had late chances to score, Fitzgerald's header being calmly chested down on the goal-line and cleared by Slater, while at the other end, sub Gary Haveron was on hand to clear off the Ballymena line after the ball had somehow squirmed under Murphy's grasp in a goalmouth melee.

Match report written by Official Ballymena United website

Squad Statistics (as at November 4th, 2006)

2006-2007 All Time
Paul Murphy (GK)21 14 - 14 -
Nigel Boyd33 10 - 36722
Aaron Callaghan20 13 - 13 -
Darren Murphy31 121121
Gordon Simms25 11 - 755
Albert Watson21 1311485
Mark Picking30 133133
Garth Scates27 1321048
Aidan Watson20 9 - 403
Austin Friel25 121121
Kevin Kelbie21 1464522
Gary Haveron (sub)25 121555
Stuart King (sub)25 3 - 383
Darren Fitzgerald (sub)28 7 - 185

League Table (as at November 4th, 2006)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Glentoran 7 6 1 0 19
2. Crusaders 7 5 1 1 16
3. Cliftonville 7 5 1 1 16
4. Linfield 7 4 2 1 14
5. Portadown 7 4 1 2 13
6. Newry 7 2 4 1 10
7. Coleraine 7 3 1 3 10
8. Dungannon 7 3 1 3 10
9. Glenavon 7 3 1 3 10
10. BALLYMENA UTD 7 2 2 3 8
11. Distillery 7 2 2 3 8
12. Donegal Celtic 7 1 3 3 6
13. Armagh City 7 1 1 5 4
14. Limavady Utd 7 1 1 5 4
15. Larne 7 1 1 5 4
16. Loughgall 7 0 3 4 3