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Saturday 16th December v. Carrick Rangers (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 21st Jan, 2017 at 19:42

Date: Saturday, 21st January, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 2364;
Linfield [1] [2]
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Paul Robinson; Assistant 2: Mark O'Brien; 4th Official: Lee Tavinder;
Goals:
[1-0] STAFFORD, Mark (15 mins), [2-0] WATERWORTH, Andrew (78 mins)

A GOAL in either half was enough to give Linfield a 2-0 win over Ballymena United at the National Stadium today.
Captains and Officials before the game
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Ballymena started well and Joe McKinney called Roy Carroll into action early on, with the Linfield keeper getting down well to make the save.
Roy Carroll gets to grips with Joe McKinney
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5 minutes later United were in again when Johnny McMurray broke on the counter attack. With Willie Faulkner in space beside him, McMurray opted to go it alone and fired over. Linfields first real chance came on 11 minutes, when a Ross Gaynor corner was met at the back post by Aaron Burns, but he headed wide. Linfield continued to press and broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. Stephen Lowry's free kick wasn't well dealt with by Alan Blayney and the ball eventually fell to Mark Stafford around 12 yards out who hammered home, despite the best efforts of Adam McCracken to keep it out.
Linfield players celebrate Mark Stafford's opening goal
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Linfield could've doubled their advantage afterwards when Burns again got his head on a corner, but Conor McCloskey was able to head clear off the line. Ballymena couldn't have went closer to an equaliser on 25 minutes, when somehow McCloskey's header was stopped on the line by Carroll before McKinney's close range follow up was also blocked.
David Jeffrey watches on as his side squandered several good chances
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Andy Waterworth went close for Linfield on the half hour mark with a powerful effort that was well saved by Blayney. Both sides continued to push for the game's second goal and it was almost provided by McMurray, but he was denied by a wonderful quick reflex save by Carroll. McMurray timed a volley inside the box to perfection but Carroll somehow managed to keep it out. With 3 minutes left in the half, midfielder Gavin Taggart was taken off with a nasty looking shoulder injury and replaced by Allan Jenkins.
Mark Stafford stays tight to McMurray
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The second period was slow to get going as both sides probed to get a foothold in the half. The first real chance came on the hour mark when Faulkner's stray ball was picked up by Stephen Fallon and he played in Burns, only for Jim Ervin to be on hand with a crucial deflection over.
Jimmy Callacher makes a good tackle on Willie Faulkner
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On 65 minutes the crossbar saved the Sky Blues from going two goals behind. Carroll's goalkick was missed completely by the Ballymena defence and fell to Burns who neatly lobbed Blayney, only to see his effort come off the bar before United cleared. After that let-off the away side went close to levelling the game. Nice build up play saw the ball come to Jenkins on the edge of the box, and the Scotsman slid the ball through to McCloskey who saw his dragged effort narrowly miss the goal.
Caolan Loughran challenging Cameron Stewart
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On 77 minutes, Linfield looked to have put the game to bed with their second, courtesy of Waterworth. A long ball from Lowry took out the United defence and Waterworth found himself 1 on 1 with Blayney, who he calmly slotted past to double the host's lead.
Late on Ballymena tried to set up a grandstand finish before added time. On 88 minutes, Carroll pulled off another tremendous save to thwart McMurray again. A perfect cross from Tony Kane found McMurray who looked certain to head home, but Carroll stopped well as Linfield took all three points.
Ballymena United host Carrick Rangers in the Danske Bank Premiership next Saturday, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Alan Blayney, Tony Kane, Kyle Owens, Gavin Taggart ( Allan Jenkins 45), Conor McCloskey, Willie Faulkner ( 85), Jim Ervin, Joe McKinney, Johnny McMurray, Caolan Loughran, Adam McCracken.

Subs not used: Darren Henderson, Eoin Kane, Neil Lowry, Ben McCauley.