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Saturday 24th August v. Glentoran (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 29th Dec, 2018 at 23:36

Date: Saturday, 29th December, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1171;
Ballymena United [0] [3]
Newry City [0] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Lee Tavinder; Assistant 1: Richard Storey; Assistant 2: Ken Ross; 4th Official: Diarmuid Harrigan;
[1-0] FRIEL, Cathair (55 mins), [1-1] McCABE, Mark (64 mins), [2-1] MAYSE, Ryan (67 mins), [3-1] LECKY, Adam (82 mins)

BALLYMENA United head into the New Year with a 2-point lead at the top of the table thanks to a 3-1 win over Newry City at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
United were hit by numerous absentees prior to kick-off, but were able to welcome back Ross Glendinning into the starting XI after a long injury layoff for the 'keeper.
A deflected effort wide from Stefan Lavery was the only shot either side could manage in a very quiet opening 15 minutes. Ballymena's first attempt came via a Ryan Mayse volley on the edge of the box but it was well held by Steven Maguire. Ballymena began to take a stronger hold on the game following Mayse's chance but it took until the 28th minute for another chance. The best move in the game to that point saw Johnny McMurray find Cathair Friel who then crossed for Jude Winchester but his close range effort was blocked by Thomas McCann. Shortly after Mayse cut inside and got a shot away but a wicked deflection forced Maguire into a good stop before Mayse curled the rebound inches wide.
After that flurry of chances for the Sky Blues Newry got Ballymena back under control and even went close themselves with an effort from Stephen Teggart following a free kick, but Glendinning was on hand to make a good stop. From the resulting corner Teggart was involved again, this time shooting narrowly over.
A couple of minutes before the break Friel missed a massive chance to open the scoring. Shane McGinty's low ball across goal fell to Friel inside the 6 yard box but somehow the forward put the ball over the crossbar. Before the half-time whistle McMurray flicked the ball over his marker neatly onto Mayse, who unleashed another volley, this time rattling the bar as the half ended goalless.
Despite the strong end to the first half Ballymena didn't look at their best for much of the half and the second half started off in a similar fashion, as the Braidmen struggled to create.
Newry skipper Declan Carville picked a booking for a foul on Winchester before United broke the deadlock on 55 minutes. Mayse whipped a dangerous ball into the box which was met by Winchester in the 6 yard box. His effort was blocked but fell into the path of Friel who fired the ball home from close range for his 12th of the season.
United's lead only lasted eight minutes. After Ballymena had failed to clear their lines on three occasions, McCann farmed the ball out to Tiarnan Rushe on the left whose cross into the box was on a plate for Mark McCabe to easily finish and level.
However Newry were level for less time than Ballymena had led as just 3 minutes after the goal the hosts went back in front. Kofi Balmer breezed past two men whilst on a bursting run down the right wing and his cross was spilled by Maguire into the middle of the box. Friel couldn't quite reach the rebound but Mayse was there instead to bundle the ball home.
The visitor's problem's got worse within 2 minutes of Mayse's strike as captain Carville received a second yellow for another foul on Winchester as Newry were reduced to 10 men. Newry reacted reasonably well to losing a man but it was almost 3-1 when Jim Ervin, not for the first time, burst through the middle and found McMurray who lifted the ball over an on looking Maguire, only to see his fine effort come back off the underside of the bar.
As Ballymena continued to probe for a three point-securing third goal Maguire pulled off a good save to deny Winchester before the 'keeper almost punched the resulting corner into his own net, only to redeem himself by scrambling it off the line.
The points were wrapped up with 9 minutes left when a corner from Steven McCullough was glanced home at the front post into the far corner by makeshift midfielder Adam Lecky.
In added time provider McCullough almost turned scorer after a neat one-two with sub Matthew Shevlin, but the wing back blasted a shot just wide as Ballymena recorded a 3-1 success.
The result sees United end the year unbeaten in 19 games and maintain a two point lead at the top.
Ballymena United travel to Seaview to face current league champions Crusaders on New Years Day at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jonathan Addis, Ryan Mayse ( Matthew Shevlin 86), Shane McGinty ( Willie Faulkner 86), Cathair Friel, Steven McCullough, Kofi Balmer, Jude Winchester, Jim Ervin, Adam Lecky ( Fra Nolan 89), Johnny McMurray.

Subs not used: Thomas McDermott, Conor Quigley, Scot Whiteside.