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

Uploaded Saturday, 27th Jan, 2018 at 19:31

Date: Saturday, 27th January, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1725;
Ballymena United [1] [2]
Linfield [2] [2]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Steven Gregg; Assistant 1: Stephen Donaldson; Assistant 2: Gavin Hegarty; 4th Official: Declan Hassan;
[0-1] STAFFORD, Mark (11 mins), [1-1] McMURRAY, Johnny (26 mins), [1-2] WATERWORTH, Andy (42 mins), [2-2] McKINNEY, Joe (76 mins)

BALLYMENA United came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with 10-man Linfield in a fiery encounter at The Showgrounds.
Very blustery conditions made it difficult at best for both sides throughout the game. It took less than 30 seconds for Ballymena's first attempt, Johnny McMurray flicking the ball on to Matthew Shevlin, who struck well wide. With both teams struggling with the weather Linfield's first meaningful chance resulted in a goal. A free kick into the back post was put back into the penalty spot by Kurtis Byrne where a completely unmarked Mark Stafford was on hand to steer the ball home.
With chances at a premium Steven McCullough shot well over from the edge of the box shortly afterwards. On 26 minutes United drew level thanks to McMurray. Nice play between McMurray, Kevin Braniff and Tony Kane ended with Braniff finding McMurray, whose first time shot took a couple of bobbles and past a full stretch Roy Carroll.
The visitors almost hit back instantly as a cross from Jordan Stewart was headed goalwards by Mark Haughey before Stephen McAlorum headed clear on the line. Shortly after Haughey's effort Kirk Millar had a big chance. Andrew Waterworth found Millar 10 yards out with no one near him but a heavy first touch allowed Kofi Balmer to step in and clear.
After a period of Linfield pressure McMurray came close to his second when he looped a cross from McCullough just over Carroll's bar. After it taking Carroll almost 2 minutes to take the goal kick, and not for the first time either, the 'keeper was finally booked. 3 minutes before half time The Blues went back in front. Stafford met a Millar corner near post and flicked it to the back post where Waterworth was waiting to tap the ball home.
Just before added time Ballymena could've had a penalty when Carroll clattered into Jimmy Callacher, who appeared to handle the ball, but instead Braniff was somehow booked for trying to retrieve the ball as Linfield took a lead into the half time break.
Waterworth did well on his own at the start of the second half to work a chance which he curled inches over Ross Glendinning's crossbar. With Linfield coming out for the second 45 minutes brightly, Byrne swung a ball into the back post for Stewart who was arriving, with his shot narrowly bypassing the far post. After Linfield's early chances Ballymena started to look the better team without really troubling Carroll.
Just after the hour mark Willie Faulkner hooked the ball back into the box after a clearance with Callacher needing to clear on the line. Cathair Friel came of the bench for his first league appearance since his injury at the abandoned game at Solitude earlier in the month. And within 2 minutes Friel had teed up McMurray who couldn't direct his header on target. On 65 minutes Linfield were reduced to 10 men when Haughey was dismissed for a second yellow in 10 minutes after deliberately tripping Friel.
With 14 minutes left Ballymena equalised for a second time courtesy of substitute Joe McKinney. A long ball to Shevlin dropped kindly for McKinney who rifled a shot from the edge of the box past Carroll, leaving him no chance.
Just 4 minutes later Ballymena were handed the chance to go in front for the first time when a penalty was awarded as McMurray was brought down in the box by a stretched Callacher leg. Braniff took responsibility from the spot but blasted the ball well over the crossbar, missing a great chance for the lead.
Inside the final 10 minutes David Healy was warned by the officials after losing his cool one too many times on the touchline. Ballymena failed to fully capitalise with the extra man and Linfield almost won it when sub Stephen Lowry drilled a shot at Glendinning. The point sees Ballymena widen the gap over Glentoran to 4 points in the battle for sixth in a good game in tough conditions.
Ballymena United host Fermanagh side Ballinamallard United in the sixth round of the Tennent's Irish Cup next Saturday, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane ( Joe McKinney 73), Kyle Owens, Stephen McAlorum ( 38), Kevin Braniff ( 45), Willie Faulkner ( Cathair Friel 63), Matthew Shevlin, Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin, Steven McCullough, Johnny McMurray.

Subs not used: Emmet Friars, Conor McCloskey, Fra McCaffrey.