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Tuesday 15th October v. Crusaders (home) - Toals Co Antrim Shield Rd 2 - k.o: 7:45pm

Uploaded Saturday, 29th Sep, 2018 at 18:24

Date: Saturday, 29th September, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 2157;
Linfield [1] [2]
Ballymena United [1] [1]
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Richard Storey; Assistant 2: Adam Jeffrey; 4th Official: Arnold Hunter;
[0-1] FRIEL, Cathair (12 mins), [1-1] O'CONNOR, Michael (30 mins), [2-1] COOPER, Joel (57 mins)

BALLYMENA United slipped to a defeat against Linfield after opening the scoring on Saturday afternoon.
It was a fairly even encounter for a good portion of the half, with both sides going close in the opening 5 minutes. Joel Cooper did well to set Matthew Clarke free on goal, but his weak effort was gathered by Ross Glendinning. Moments later it was Cooper with the chance after getting in behind the Ballymena defence, but he was denied by a strong hand from Glendinning. On 4 minutes The Braidmen's first chance almost yielded a spectacular goal, as a stunning bicycle kick from Jonny Addis from inside the box went just wide.
The very open nature of the game continued with Cooper glancing a header narrowly wide from a Kirk Millar cross before Ballymena broke the deadlock on 12 minutes. From a Leroy Millar corner, Friel got up highest and his header went through a sea of bodies before finding its way into the bottom corner.
Within 2 minutes it was almost two, Friel picking out Andy McGrory who was arriving at the back post, but his header landed on the roof of the net. Shortly after Michael O'Connor had had a decent effort from a tight angle saved, Chris Casement saw a free kick from the edge of the box drift just wide. On 27 minutes Ballymena were forced into a change. Addis was unable to carry on after picking up an injury and he was replaced by Kofi Balmer.
3 minutes after the substitution Linfield levelled. From the left hand side Clarke put in a teasing low ball and O'Connor nicked in just ahead of Balmer to stab the ball home despite Glendinning's best efforts.
The goal came just as the hosts were gaining a strong foothold on the game and in the final 15 minutes The Sky Blues had more to defend than attack. Good solo work from Daniel Kearns opened up a chance for The Blues' man to get a shot away but from 20 yards he dragged the ball wide. In United's only effort of the last quarter of an hour Tony Kane teed up Leroy Millar and his well struck shot from all of 30 yards stung the palms of Roy Carroll.
Inside the final 10 minutes of the half Linfield missed a great chance to go ahead. Millar's dangerous ball found O'Connor but from close range his header was blocked by Scot Whiteside, who didn't know much about it, before Glendinning gathered.
The second half took a while to get going with neither 'keeper troubled inside the opening 10 minutes. The best opening almost fell the way of O'Connor who was waiting back post for a cross from Cooper, but the pace of the ball meant it just evaded him.
On 57 minutes Linfield went ahead. The slightest of touches off the head of O'Connor found Cooper but with work still to do he took the ball to the edge of the box before firing a neat finish past Glendinning.
The goal seemed to get Linfield going again as the home side began probing for a third. Whiteside did well to put in a great block to stop an O'Connor shot before Chris Casement struck the difficult rebound a matter of inches past the post. Any attacks Ballymena were able to string together weren't ending with any real meaningful chances and at the other end Millar forced Glendinning into a save from a header.
With 19 minutes left Friel missed a golden opportunity to bring United back on level terms. Leroy Millar burst forward on the left wing and his cross found Friel just 6 yards out but under pressure from Clarke the striker put the ball wide. Friel's attempt would prove to be the best chance that would come United's way, but not their only one. Ballymena were awarded an inviting free kick from just outside the D after Friel was brought down. Kane stepped up but couldn't keep his attempt inside the post, going just wide.
Inside the final 10 minutes of the match Ballymena continued to look for an equaliser in what was their best spell of the half. Johnny McMurray did well to hold up a Jim Ervin cross for sub Adam Lecky, but his effort went straight at Carroll. Then with just 4 minutes left McMurray had a chance of his own. The forward did well to bring down a ball from Steven McCullough before producing a fantastic flick to take the ball over his marker and set up a volley, which he sent narrowly wide.
It would be United's last chance as they continued a poor run away to Linfield and have picked up just one point from a tough set of games this week.
Ballymena United finally have their first home game of the season next Saturday when they host Newry City, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane ( James Knowles 79), Jonathan Addis ( Kofi Balmer 27 37), Scot Whiteside, Ryan Mayse ( Adam Lecky 67), Cathair Friel, Steven McCullough, Andrew McGrory, Jim Ervin ( 68), Leroy Millar ( 76), Johnny McMurray ( 89).

Subs not used: Thomas McDermott, Willie Faulkner, Jude Winchester, Reece Glendinning.