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Saturday 27th April v. Crusaders (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Monday, 26th Mar, 2018 at 23:39

Date: Monday, 26th March, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 906;
Ballymena United [2] [2]
Ballinamallard United [0] [0]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 20:00;
Referee: Andrew Davey; Assistant 1: George Argyropoulos; Assistant 2: Gavin Andrews; 4th Official: Shane Andrews;
[1-0] SHEVLIN, Matthew (7 mins), [2-0] SHEVLIN, Matthew (15 mins)

MATTHEW Shevlin hit a brace tonight, securing Ballymena a top six finish with a 2-0 win over Ballinamallard at The Showgrounds.
A minutes silence was held prior to kick off for Lilas McKay, mother of United kit man Bertnel Thompson, who sadly passed away at the end of last week.
With only a win being sufficient enough to steal 6th spot from Glentoran, Ballymena almost went ahead in the opening minute. A low cross from the right via Tony Kane was miskicked by the Mallards' Matthew Smyth and drifted just over his own crossbar.
The Skies quick start was rewarded 7 minutes in when they broke the deadlock. A Kane free kick deep to the back post was kept in play on the by-line by Johnny Flynn and Shevlin was on-hand to easily send the ball home from 6 yards out.
Ballinamallard's first effort on goal came on 9 minutes with a Sean Noble free kick from 25 yards, but it flew high over United's goal. With a similar ball to the back post that provided Shevlin's opener, Ballymena went close again. This time Steven McCullough crossed for Kofi Balmer but the defender couldn't force the ball home.
8 minutes after his first goal, Shevlin grabbed his second to make it 2-0. Good solo work from the forward allowed him to race clear and he calmly slotted home past Richard Brush for his 7th league goal of the season.
With their tails up Ballymena almost made it three shortly after when Joe McKinney did well to work space for a shot, but his low curling effort was gathered by Brush. On the half hour mark Shevlin had a great chance to complete his hat trick with a free header from a corner, but he failed to put any meaningful connection on the ball and the chance went.
The league's bottom side found themselves reduced to long range efforts in the opening half hour with Noble and Colm McLaughlin both failing to trouble the goal. However in the final 15 minutes the Mallards brought the game to the home side and began to threaten. Stephen O'Flynn had the ball in the back of the net but his header was ruled out for offside. Shane McGinty had two chances in consecutive minutes, first firing over in space inside the box after a cut-back from Noble, before he sent a volley from the edge of the box just wide of Ross Glendinning's post. O'Flynn also had a chance from close range after being found by Noble, but by the time he sorted his feet out Balmer was able to block his shot.
At the other end nice link up play between McKinney and Fra McCaffrey eventually saw full back Conor Quigley with a chance inside the box, but Kerr was able to block. Right on half time a cross from Kane was parried out by Brush to Cathair Friel who had an open goal from 10 yards, but he somehow headed over as United went into half time 2-0 up.
The second half had very little chances for either side with both goalkeeper's mostly passengers in the half. Less than 10 minutes in Ballymena faced another, now seemingly customary, forced change as Flynn came off walking gingerly, being replaced by Kyle Owens. With a third goal surely being enough to secure the three points, McCullough did well in the middle of the park and got a shot away from 20 yards, his attempt going narrowly wide.
In the most bizarre incident during the game, the visitors' David Kee took the strange decision to kick the ball deliberately at a Ballymena ball boy, with Kee receiving a booking for his troubles.
Seconds later a delivery from Kee was headed just over by Smyth. Ballinamallard looked the slightly more dangerous of the two with McGinty and O'Flynn both getting into dangerous positions, but were unable to get their shot's away. Substitute Leroy Millar could've and should've wrapped up the game 12 minutes from time when a deflected cross from McKinney was headed across goal by Shevlin to Millar, but he waited too long to send the ball home and Ryan O'Reilly got back to clear off the line.
Having already been booked, Kee was extremely lucky to stay on the pitch when he caught Shevlin with a late challenge, but received only a final warning. Despite the two goal lead United still had work to do in the final 5 minutes, especially when a Gary Armstrong free kick was deflected just wide. Just before added time, the Braidmen's injury woes got even worse when McCullough hobbled off after landing awkwardly.
Ballymena were able to see out the game with a clean sheet and secure that all important top 6 position, which looked unlikely at best this time last week, before this run of 3 impressive wins.
Ballymena United host Cliftonville in their first post-split fixture on Tuesday 3rd April, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Johnny Flynn ( Kyle Owens 53), Cathair Friel, Matthew Shevlin, Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin, Steven McCullough ( Willie Faulkner 90), Fra McCaffrey ( Leroy Millar 71), Joe McKinney, Conor Quigley.

Subs not used: Thomas McDermott, Conor McCloskey.