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Uploaded Tuesday, 26th Feb, 2019 at 23:12

Date: Tuesday, 26th February, 2019; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1111;
Ballymena United [1] [2]
Cliftonville [0] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Tony Clarke; Assistant 1: Stephen Donaldson; Assistant 2: Kristian Hanna; 4th Official: Declan Hassan;
[1-0] FRIEL, Cathair (20 mins), [2-0] MILLAR, Leroy (71 mins), [2-1] DONNELLY, Rory (73 mins)

BALLYMENA United put recent disappointments behind them with a hard fought 2-1 win over Cliftonville at the Showgrounds on Tuesday night.
After the two defeats to Linfield in the capital it was back to home comforts for United and after a very quiet opening quarter of an hour, Leroy Millar had the game's first chance as he saw a header from a Steven McCullough free kick come back off the crossbar. Millar's close shave seemed to inject some life into both sides with Joe Gorman heading over at the back post in the visitor's first chance.
On 20 minutes referee Tony Clarke called play back for a Ballymena free kick, despite his initial advantage seeing Andy McGrory break through on goal, but the strange decision to bring play back worked in United's favour as they scored from the free kick. Tony Kane's ball in was only half dealt with, allowing Steven McCullough to find Cathair Friel, who broke the offside trap before finishing neatly into the bottom corner.
The goal was the start of a remainder of the half dominated by the Sky Blues. Scot Whiteside found Friel with a great long ball and the forward teed up Jude Winchester, but in a great position he skewed his shot wide. Minutes later Winchester turned provider, putting McGrory through again, but instead of shooting he tried to find Adam Lecky, causing the chance to break down as Richard Brush easily collected the ball.
The chances continued to come and go for United towards the end of the half with Kane firing just inches over from 20 yards after a good team move. An even better team move five minutes later saw McCullough, Kane, Winchester and McGrory all linking up, with the latter flashing a shot wide from the right hand side of the box.
The Reds had barely anything to show for their first half efforts. Despite seeing a fair bit of the ball the best opening they could muster up did see Conor McMenamin put the ball in the back of Ballymena's net, but it was rightfully chalked off for offside. A half controlled by the hosts ended 1-0, with United left to ponder over a host of missed chances.
As expected, Cliftonville carried more of a threat in the second half as the Braidmen were left hoping they wouldn't regret those first half misses. On 55 minutes Cliftonville captain Chris Curran charged forward with the ball from his own half before playing in Joe Gormley, but he was denied a shooting chance after Jim Ervin tracked him back before making an immense tackle. And minutes later the captain was at it again, getting in the way of a goalbound shot from McMenamin.
With 25 minutes left Ballymena came on strong again after a quiet spell. Winchester found Friel on the wing, with the striker making a run into the box before cutting the ball back to Winchester, but again he scuffed his effort wide.
On 71 minutes United moved 2-0 in front. A hanging free kick from Jonny Addis was cleared only as far as Kane on the edge of the box, and he headed the ball back in for Millar who took one touch to bring the ball under control before lifting it over Brush and into the back of the net.
However the two goal cushion only lasted two minutes as Cliftonville pulled a goal back. A corner from Aaron Harkin was met by sub Rory Donnelly at the back post who headed home past Ross Glendinning.
Harkin's goal would mean for a very nervy last 15 minutes and Chris Curran had a chance to equalise when he was able to dance his way past numerous sky blue shirts, only to fire over with his attempt.
Despite Ballymena having to defend for most of the game's conclusion, at the other end Brush made two fantastic saves inside a minute to keep his team in it. A cross dropped kindly for Winchester who chested the ball down before hitting it on the volley from 12 yards, but Brush did well to tip the ball round the post. However the 'keeper produced an even better stop when Ervin let fly from 25 yards. His shot nicked off a Cliftonville player, making it harder for Brush, but he got across to make a stunning one handed stop.
The final 5 minutes were all Cliftonville, with McMenamin coming closest to equalising with a low, curling effort on the edge of the box that drifted inches wide, but United held on for a huge three points to strengthen their grip on 2nd place in the league.
Next up for United is a trip to Seaview where they will face Crusaders in the quarter-finals of the Tennent's Irish Cup, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Jonathan Addis, Scot Whiteside, Cathair Friel ( 90), Steven McCullough, Andrew McGrory, Jude Winchester, Jim Ervin, Adam Lecky, Leroy Millar.

Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Conor Quigley, Shane McGinty, Willie Faulkner, Matthew Shevlin, Kofi Balmer, Johnny McMurray.