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

Uploaded Saturday, 2nd Dec, 2017 at 19:27

Date: Saturday, 2nd December, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 865;
Ballymena United [1] [2]
Ballinamallard United [0] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Raymond Crangle; Assistant 1: Richard Storey; Assistant 2: Mark O'Brien; 4th Official: Diarmuid Harrigan;
Goals:
[1-0] KANE, Tony (pen 42 mins), [2-0] FRIEL, Cathair (57 mins), [2-1] ARMSTRONG, Gary (84 mins)

GOALS from Tony Kane and Cathair Friel either side of the break helped Ballymena to a 2-1 win over Ballinamallard today.
United came out of the blocks quickly with a bright start. Captain Jim Ervin delivered an inviting ball towards Cathair Friel inside the first minute but Ben McCann did well to cut the ball out. Two minutes later it should've been 1-0. Steven McCullough worked a crossing position and found Conor McCloskey who had a free header but sent his attempt wide.
With Ballymena enjoying a large amount of possession the chances continued to flow. A lively Johnny McMurray broke through the Mallards defence to find himself 1 on 1 with Richard Brush, but from a tight angle his low shot hit the side netting. The next chance fell to Kyle Owens. Fra McCaffrey crossed to the back post from a short corner and it came to Owens who scuffed his attempt wide.
The visitor's first chance came on 20 minutes. Jonathan Leddy tried his luck from distance from a free kick and his stinging shot was saved by Ross Glendinning, who parried it out into the box where Shane McGinty should've done better, but Glendinning saved well again.
Just before the half hour mark Mallards captain and 'keeper Brush cleared a corner only as far as McCaffrey on the edge of the box but his drilled shot was deflected wide. One minute later McCloskey worked Brush again, this time with a looping volley from 25 yards, but it was straight at Brush. On 35 minutes McMurray went close again when met he met a terrific free kick from Kane but his header, like McCloskey's effort, was straight at Brush. Minutes later McMurray had another fantastic chance but again couldn't find the goal. A headed clearance from Ervin set the forward through one on one again, but his attempted lob drifted wide of the post.
4 minutes before the break Ballymena were handed the chance to break the deadlock from the penalty spot, after two chances before hand. From a corner, Owens had a header blocked on the line and the rebound from Kofi Balmer rattled off the underside of the bar, before McMurray was bundled over by Ryan McConnell. Tony Kane took responsibility from the spot and made up for his mid week miss by sending Brush the wrong way to put United 1-0 ahead at half time.
The second half went much the same way as the first with the Sky Blues completely dominant but failing to take multiple good chances. Within a minute of the restart Friel missed when it looked easier to score. McMurray chased down a clearance and crossed from the by-line for Friel who was arriving front post but somehow header over.
5 minutes into the half Jason McCartney rose highest to meet a cross but his weak header was easily caught by Glendinning. As Ballinamallard create back to back chances for the first time in the game Leddy provided a low free kick which could've troubled Glendinning, but the ball bounced straight into his arms. Straight down the other end United had a penalty appeal turned down, with Friel instead being booked for simulation.
On 57 minutes Ballymena had a deserved second goal. Nice play for McCloskey set McMurray off down the right hand side and his cross found Friel, who got the slightest of touches to divert the ball past Brush from close range for his 12th goal of the season.
Friel should've doubled his tally for the afternoon four minutes later. A mistake from Brush gave the ball to McMurray and 2 on 1 he opted to play in Friel who sliced his effort wide of the Mallards goal. As the chances to kill the game off with a third continued to come Ballymena's way, great hold up play from Joe McKinney saw him play in Ervin, but the captain showed why he's a defender by dragging his attempt well wide. Inside the final quarter of an hour Ballymena still had trouble finding a third when a cross from McCloskey narrowly missed McKinney before McMurray's low shot was gathered by Brush. With 11 minutes left United did find the net for a third time through McMurray, but he was penalised for a push on his marker.
In a rare chance at the other end, McConnell picked out sub Niall Owens who had time in the box to turn an shoot, but he shot narrowly wide. With 6 minutes left on the clock United were made to pay for failing to be clinical when it mattered when Ballinamallard grabbed a goal back. Owens had time on the left hand side to slide a low ball across goal and at the back post was another sub Gary Armstrong, who finished well.
Whilst trying to block Armstrong's shot, McCullough's knee had a nasty collision with the post, forcing the defender to come off in some discomfort, being replaced by Matthew Shevlin. Inside 5 minutes of added time Ryan Curran arrived just too late into the box to meet an Owens ball as Ballymena held out in an unexpected nervy finish to claim a valuable 3 points of the league's bottom side.
Ballymena United travel to Bangor Fuels Arena to face Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership next Saturday, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Kyle Owens, Cathair Friel ( 54), Conor McCloskey, Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin, Steven McCullough ( Matthew Shevlin 87), Fra McCaffrey, Joe McKinney, Johnny McMurray.

Subs not used: Stephen McAlorum, Eoin Kane, Conor Brennan, Jake McNeill.