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Tuesday 23rd April v. Glenavon (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 7:45pm

Uploaded Saturday, 26th Aug, 2017 at 20:59

Date: Saturday, 26th August, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1711;
Linfield [0] [1]
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Evan Boyce; Assistant 1: Stephen Bell; Assistant 2: Gavin Hegarty; 4th Official: Declan Hassan;
[1-0] MITCHELL, Andrew (pen 77 mins)

BALLYMENA United put in a much improved performance, despite losing 1-0 away to Linfield today.
David Jeffrey handed competitive debuts to goalkeeper Conor Brennan and Andrew Burns for the visit to the National Stadium. It was a fairly quiet start to the game for both sides with Ballymena seeking a first win of the campaign, whilst the hosts looked to keep their 100% start to the season. Tony Kane was booked early on for a foul but the resulting free kick was easily gathered by Brennan.
Tony Kane seen yellow early in the game
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The first real opening came 10 minutes in for The Blues when Kirk Millar found the QPR bound Paul Smyth, but his dangerous cross missed everyone in the box. Not long after Smyth was involved again, this time skipping past Kyle Owens, Joe McKinney and then Jim Ervin, but his tame effort caused Brennan no problems.
Conor Brennan showed confidence on his competitive debut for United
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As Ballymena started to become more involved, the visitor's first chance came on 16 minutes. Fra McCaffrey and Cathair Friel linked up nicely before Gary Thompson had the chance to shot, but he couldn't catch the shot cleanly enough to trouble Roy Carroll.

However a minute later Carroll was called into action to stop McKinney. The midfielder easily passed Mark Stafford and Carroll was forced to tip his low shot out for a corner. Linfield summer signing Jordan Stewart had a go from all of 25 yards on 21 minutes, but his attempt was always heading over the bar. Minutes later Stewart picked up an injury and was replaced by Andrew Burns' brother Aaron.

And it was Linfield's Burns who helped tee up Robert Garrett on the half hour mark, but Garrett drilled his shot wide of United's post. Johnny Flynn nearly gave Linfield the lead in bizarre fashion when the spin on a cross from Aaron Burns caused the United defender to loop the ball backwards just over his own crossbar.
Johnny Flynn got lucky when the ball looped over the crossbar
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With 5 minutes of the half left Linfield tried a corner routine off the training ground but Stafford's strike ended up in the Kop stand. In the final 5 minutes United looked increasingly dangerous but just couldn't carve out clear cut chances as the half ended in stalemate.

At half time Willie Faulkner made his first appearance of the new season, replacing Joe McKinney. The Sky Blues picked up were they left off at the start of the second half as they continued to give Linfield plenty to think about. McCaffrey and Friel worked well together again and Friel picked out Thompson who had a header cleared by Stafford.

3 minutes into the half Ballymena couldn't have went closer and only a great Carroll save prevented United leading. A long Conor McCloskey throw-in was controlled by the chest of Owens, before the defender hit it on the volley, with Northern Ireland international Carroll having to tip the ball over the bar when the ball looked destined for the top corner.
Linfield's first chances of the half came 10 minutes in. First Millar headed a floating Smyth cross well over and then McCaffrey did well to clear a Mark Haughey header off the far post. Linfield could've taken the lead just before the hour mark when Smyth beat the offside trap and broke through, but from an awkward angle he couldn't find the target. With 24 minutes left it was Brennan's turn to pull off an acrobatic save. From 20 yards Smyth tried his luck with a dipping effort, but United's 'keeper was able to put it behind for a corner.
Brennan pulled a fine save off from Paul Smyth
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On 76 minutes Linfield were handed a great chance to break the deadlock when Andrew Mitchell was brought down in the box by sub Faulkner. Mitchell picked himself up to take the spot kick and sent Brennan the wrong way to give Linfield the lead.
Willie Faulkner gives a penalty away with a foul on Andrew Mitchell
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Mitchell sent Brennan the wrong way to give Linfield the lead
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Just two minutes later Ballymena's day got worse when Burns received a straight red for a strong tackle on Blues captain Jamie Mulgrew.
Andrew Burns was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Jamie Mulgrew
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Despite nothing there to split the two sides for the majority of the game, the goal and red card set United back as they struggled to create chances late on. Linfield almost made sure of the result with 5 minutes left but Millar somehow couldn't turn the ball home from close range.

David Jeffrey turned to Steven McCullough and Matthew Shevlin to try and find an equaliser, and in added time Shevlin went down in the box, but the referee waved penalty claims away as, despite a strong showing, United fell to a third defeat in four to start the season.
Ballymena United start their defence of the BetMcLean League Cup on Tuesday night when they host Knockbreda in the 2nd round, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Conor Brennan, Tony Kane ( 9), Kyle Owens, Johnny Flynn ( 82), Gary Thompson, Cathair Friel ( Steven McCullough 81), Conor McCloskey, Andrew Burns ( 79), Jim Ervin, Fra McCaffrey ( Matthew Shevlin 81), Joe McKinney ( Willie Faulkner 46).

Subs not used: Ross Glendinning, Michael Gault.