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Saturday 24th June v. Loughgall (away) - Friendly - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 25th Mar, 2017 at 19:10

Date: Saturday, 25th March, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1211;
Cliftonville [1] [2]
Ballymena United [1] [1]
Venue: Solitude; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Raymond Hetherington; Assistant 1: Gareth Eakin; Assistant 2: Paul Robinson; 4th Official: Steven Gregg;
Goals:
[1-0] DONNELLY, Jay (25 mins), [1-1] McMURRAY, Johnny (33 mins), [2-1] DONNELLY, Jay (87 mins)

10-Man Ballymena United were defeated by a late winner today against Cliftonville at Solitude.
It was the North Belfast side who started the brighter of the two and went close to going ahead in then 10th minute. Jay Donnelly got in front of Kyle Owens to get his head onto a cross, but he couldn't manage to keep it under the crossbar. Shortly afterwards Owens did well to keep the scores level. Aaron Haire beat Tim Allen to a long ball and flicked it towards goal, but Owens was on hand to clear off the line.
United's first chance came on 17 minutes when Johnny McMurray beat the offside trap with a well timed run and fired at goal, only to be denied by a good save by the legs of Jason Mooney. As the home side continued to dominate the majority of the play, on 24 minutes Steven Garrett flashed a well connected half volley inches wide from outside the box. It was to be a warning sign for the Sky Blues as a minute later Jay Donnelly put Cliftonville ahead. Tomas Cosgrove produced a cross from the right which Owens failed to get a head on and Donnelly arrived to head home.
It could've and probably should've got worse for the visitors 4 minutes later. Levi Ives took the ball past 3 United players to give him just Allen to beat, but the defender dragged the shot wide. Cliftonville were then punished for not finding a second, when with 33 minutes played, Ballymena equalised. Tony Kane delivered a first time cross which was headed down by Owens into the path of McMurray, who made no mistake in firing home from close range.
Before the end of the half Ballymena were forced into a substitution when Kevin Braniff went off with injury and was replaced by the returning Cathair Friel.
The game changing moment came 8 minutes into the second half with yet another questionable decision on the referee's part. This time Tony Kane was shown a straight red for a tackle on Garrett close to the dugouts.
Cliftonville took full control of the game with the extra man advantage and couldn't of came closer to regaining the lead on 66 minutes. Jay Donnelly had an effort somehow cleared off the line by Jim Ervin and the follow up attempt was deflected into the side netting. Having stopped Ives again in the 70th minute, Allen pulled off another unbelievable save to deny Donnelly. Ives low cross was met by Donnelly inside the 6 yard box but somehow Allen was able to pull off a save to keep the game level.
As Cliftonville continued the one way traffic into the final 20 minutes, Chris Curran went close twice. His first effort from distance was again tipped over by Allen, before he flashed a half volley over the bar. With just 3 minutes left, Ballymena's resilience was disappointingly broken when Jay Donnelly netted his second of the game. A corner was floated in deep to the back post and knocked down into the six yard box, where Donnelly was waiting to send the ball home.
In the 3 minutes of added time Ballymena almost added to the late drama when a counter attack ended with McMurray drilling a low shot from the edge of the box, but Mooney saved well to give Cliftonville a big 3 points as the race for European qualification places continues.
Ballymena United have a break next week, returning to action against Glenavon at Mourneview Park on Saturday 8th April.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Tim Allen, Tony Kane ( 53), Kyle Owens, Johnny Flynn, Conor McCloskey ( 77), Daniel Wallace, Jim Ervin, Kevin Braniff ( Cathair Friel 36), Joe McKinney ( Allan Jenkins 79), Johnny McMurray ( 59), Michael Kerr ( Fra McCaffrey 90).

Subs not used: Ross Glendinning, Leroy Millar.