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Saturday 30th September v. Coleraine (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 1st Jul, 2017 at 09:18

Date: Thursday, 29th June, 2017; Competition: Europa League - Round 1; Attendance: 2969;
Odds BK [1] [3]
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Venue: Skagerak Arena; Kick-Off: 18:00;
Referee: Edin Jakupovic; Assistant 1: Senad Ibrisimbegovic; Assistant 2: Damir Lazic; 4th Official: Admir Sehovic;
Goals:
[1-0] MLADENOVIC, Stefan (1 mins), [2-0] BROBERG, Martin (53 mins), [3-0] HAUGEN, Sigurd (90 mins)

BALLYMENA United were left ruing goals in the first and last minutes of their UEFA Europa League game against Norwegian side Odds Ballklubb on Thursday evening.
David Jeffrey's Sky Blues returned to European competition for the first time in 13 years, as they competed in the first qualifying round, first leg tie of Europe's secondary major competition. Despite most of the club's summer signings making the trip to Skien, only experienced midfielder Michael Gault was afforded a competitive debut with the manager relying on the core of his squad who had Playing into the strong evening sunshine it was a disastrous start for the travelling Braidmen as they found themselves a goal behind after just 34 seconds! The home side caught Ballymena napping as they took advantageous of some nervous defending with Stefan Mladenovic slipping the ball under Ross Glendinning.
Undeterred, the part-time visitors settled into the game slowly as they dealed with the early pressure from Odds. In the first 15 minutes, Swedish winger Martin Erik Broberg was causing problems and had a shot fired across the face of goal whilst Pape Diouf had an ambitious overhead kick cause Glendinning no problems. United were restricted to a handful of attacks in the first half, mostly revolving around unsuccessful set pieces but stood up to the physical test of their professional opponents with Diouf booked after 36 minutes following an altercation with Leroy Millar. Johnny Flynn was also booked late in a half where Ballymena managed the game well given the circumstances, soaking up the pressure and limiting the home side's chances.
The second half started with similar early woe as United with a double blow. Seven minutes after the restart Johnny Flynn conceded a penalty when his outstretched leg caught Canadian international Olivier Occean. Odds captain Jone Samuelsen stepped up but could only rattle the crossbar with his powerful effort, but Broberg was on hand to react quickest heading home with Glendinning scrambling across goal. A minute after going two goals down, United's second misfortune came when Kyle Owens fell awkwardly on the artificial surface whilst challenging for a header. Following treatment he was replaced by Emmet Friars, who was making his debut following a summer move from Ards.
The Sky Blues continued the try and force a way into the game and their first real chance came on 67 minutes when Conor McCloskey whipped a great ball over to Cathair Friel who headed over. It was the last real action for last season's top goalscorer as he was replaced for Johnny McMurray shortly after. McMurray made an immediate impact with a burst of energy that caught Odds on the back foot, particularly with 15 minutes left when quick thinking from Kevin Braniff released the substitute through unmarked but could only drill a low shot into the side netting at the goalkeeper's near post. Buoyed by the direct nature of the Sky Blues' approach, there was genuine hope of an away goal in the final stages.
That only made the final play of the game even more heart-breaking for Ballymena United as home substitute Sigurd Haugen cut inside on the edge of the box and his low drive deceived Glendinning who could only watch as he was agonisingly beaten at his near post for the Norwegian's third of the game and potentially ended United's lingering hopes of having something left to play for in Belfast next Thursday.
Upon the final whistle, the Ballymena United supporters lauded the efforts of their demoralised team as the effort and commitment could not be faulted.
In his post match interview, manager David Jeffrey said "The people of Ballymena United, our community, our club and supporters should be extremely proud after seven training sessions and two games against a full-time professional side 14 games into their season.

We asked the players to go out give their best, and they got caught with a bit of nerves for the first goal but after that they stood firm with such hard work, such discipline and such commitment. Things could have been so different on another day. The difference at this level is that mistakes are punished and chances HAVE to be taken.

I could not be prouder of our players, I thought we had hero upon hero and I am so proud to be manager of this club. We now look forward to welcoming Odd BK back to Northern Ireland next week.

We said to the players, we wanted to give them a professional experience and a learning experience to adapt their game. The players and staff has been tremendously well looked after by the club, unbelievable approach by Iain Black, Jonny Irwin, Philip Simpson and Don Stirling. The whole trip has been most enjoyable and the warmth of the Norwegian people.

I have spoken to the players, but I make no apologies for raising expectations. We will set the bar a bit higher now to drive these players on and this game is key point in that experience."
Goals:
If you'd like to watch the goals from the game please click this link.
We hope all our supporters have made it home safely from Norway and that despite our defeat you enjoyed the occasion.

Your support was incredible and very much appreciated by the Manager and the team. The UEFA delegate and the Norwegian Police both noted the exemplary behaviour of our fans.

We would also like to thank Odds Ballklubb for their superb hospitality and the people of Skien for such a friendly welcome to our team and supporters.

We will play the second leg next Thursday night at Seaview and we hope our supporters will aim to extend the same warmth of reception we all received in Norway.

The player will aspire to give their all, so be loud, be proud, be UNITED!
Ballymena United welcome Odds Ballklub to Northern Ireland next week with the home leg being played at Seaview with a 7:45pm kick-off.
Match Report by Neil Coleman
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane ( Willie Faulkner 80), Kyle Owens ( Emmet Friars 58), Johnny Flynn ( 43), Michael Gault, Cathair Friel ( Johnny McMurray 72), Kevin Braniff, Conor McCloskey, Jim Ervin ( 55), Leroy Millar, Joseph McKinney.

Subs not used: Tim Allen, Andrew Burns, Eoin Kane, Steven McCullough.