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Saturday 25th November v. Cliftonville (away) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Tuesday, 15th Aug, 2017 at 23:22

Date: Tuesday, 15th August, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 542;
Carrick Rangers [0] [1]
Ballymena United [0] [1]
Venue: Belfast Loughshore Arena; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Lee Tavinder; Assistant 1: Jarlath McElholm; Assistant 2: Joseph Wilson; 4th Official: Mark Dillon;
Goals:
[0-1] GAGE, Denver (og 53 mins), [1-1] MOONEY, Andrew (60 mins)

BALLYMENA United picked up their first point of the league campaign with a 1-1 draw at Carrick.
At a sunny Loughshore Arena in Carrickfergus it was the home side who started the brighter. Within 2 minutes, Ross Glendinning was called into action to stop Carrick captain Mark Surgenor. The ex-United man had enough time to have a go from all of 25 yards and Glendinning was forced to pull off a great save, tipping the ball over the crossbar. The Sky Blues' first chance of the game fell to Kevin Braniff. The forward was picked out by Conor McCloskey in the box but on the half volley, Braniff sent the ball wide. A minute later Ballymena won a free kick in Tony Kane range. Kane's first effort was blocked by the Amber wall. The ball came back to Kane but his second attempt went well wide.
Kevin Braniff had the first chance of the game
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Carrick tried their luck from distance again a quarter of an hour in when the ball sat up nicely for Ben Roy and his effort wasn't far off the target, going just over. 5 minutes later a United free kick via Kane from the right hand side eventually made its way to McCloskey and Carrick 'keeper Harry Doherty denied him from point blank range, only for McCloskey to be penalised for handball anyway. A neat one-two between McCloskey and Braniff gave the visitors another chance. It was the former who ended up with the shot but it was blocked by the Carrick defence for a corner. From there, the game broke into a period of little goalmouth action as United continued to be frustrated when trying to carve out any meaningful chances against a robust home defence.
Conor McCloskey and Braniff were combining well
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However, with the last kick of the half Ballymena couldn't have came any closer to breaking the deadlock. Matthew Shevlin won a free kick in a dangerous position in the middle of the goal. With Kane, Braniff and former Carrick man Steven McCullough over the ball, it was Braniff who took it but the ball cannoned off Doherty's post before being cleared as the half ended goalless.
The first chance of the second half resulted in the opening goal of the game as Ballymena took the lead via an own goal courtesy of former United defender Denver Gage. A Kane free kick from the left was delivered close to the penalty spot, but unfortunately for Gage he looped his header over his own goalkeeper and into the goal.
Denver Gage, still scoring for the Sky Blues
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The goal seemed to inject a bit of energy into the Sky Blues who began to look more dangerous. Shevlin did well to hold up a long ball and he laid the ball off to Joe McKinney, although his shot almost went well wide of the goal. On the stroke of the hour mark the home side levelled through Andrew Mooney. A quick Carrick counter-attack saw Mark Clarke split the United defence with one pass and find Mooney who beat the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with Glendinning, before calmly slotted past the Sky Blue stopper for 1-1.
Ballymena went close to regaining the lead 4 minutes later, again from a Kane free kick. This time Kane went straight for goal and was denied only by a top save from Doherty, tipping the ball over the bar. On 67 minutes the home side were handed a glorious chance to go ahead. A corner dropped in the six yard box and Surgenor won a penalty after being brought down by McCullough. Roy stepped up to take the penalty but didn't trouble Glendinning, dragging his spot kick wide of the post in a big let off for Ballymena.
From there, United's frustrations continued to show as they were reduced to long balls with little end result. Captain Jim Ervin was then booked for stopping a Carrick move. David Jeffrey looked to Cathair Friel and Fra McCaffrey on the bench for inspiration and the latter added more threat going forward. As United pushed for a late winner, McCullough fizzed a dangerous, pacy ball into the box in added time. Only needing a touch the ball bypassed everyone as the game finished level in the first meeting between the sides since Ballymena's League Cup final win back in February.
Ballymena United host Glenavon at the Showgrounds this Saturday afternoon, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jim Ervin ( 74), Johnny Flynn, Emmet Friars, Steven McCullough, Conor McCloskey ( Cathair Friel 77), Tony Kane, Michael Gault, Joe McKinney ( Fra McCaffrey 80), Kevin Braniff, Matthew Shevlin.

Subs not used: Conor Brennan, Gary Thompson, Caolan Loughran.