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Friday 20th December v. Glenavon (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 7:45pm

Uploaded Saturday, 19th Oct, 2019 at 18:16

Date: Saturday, 19th October, 2019; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 2292;
Linfield [2] [2]
Ballymena United [0] [1]
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Jamie Robinson; Assistant 1: Stephen Bell; Assistant 2: Andrew Nethery; 4th Official: Ian McNabb;
Goals:
[1-0] COOPER, Joel (35 mins), [2-0] COOPER, Joel (44 mins), [2-1] CALLACHER, Jimmy (og 90 mins)

BALLYMENA United's poor run at The National Stadium continued after a narrow 2-1 defeat to champions Linfield in the capital this afternoon.
United fielded the same team who drew with Crusaders last weekend as they made the trip to Windsor Park for the first meeting of the season between last year's top two.
It was the champions who started the stronger in the opening 10 minutes, yet they were only able to carve out one solitary early chance, but it was a good one. On the left hand side of the box Joel Copper spun Andy McGrory and fired a ball across the six yard box for Shayne Lavery, but from close range he turned the ball wide. United's first real venture into Linfield's box yielded a chance on 15 minutes, the ball eventually falling for Kenny Kane whose cross was headed wide at the back post by McGrory.
The Blues had a growing corner count in the first half and from one of those corners Leroy Millar did well to flick the ball away from the waiting head of Jimmy Callacher. Despite Linfield still seeing more of the ball, Ballymena started to get more of it themselves as the half went on, and after Jude Winchester had advanced the ball down the pitch to Millar, at the second shooting attempt Millar's shot clipped the top of the crossbar.
Kane was gradually getting himself more involved in the game for United and did well to win a corner which fell to Steven McCullough on the edge but he fired well over, before Linfield took the lead two minutes later. Cooper, who looked lively all half, was given time on the ball to cut inside from the right before ending a fine solo run by firing a shot past Ross Glendinning from the edge of the box.
After picking up a blow to the head early on, Millar was forced off for the third time by referee Jamie Robinson after Linfield's goal, with United a man down for over five minutes as Millar went down the tunnel for stitches.
A minute before the interval it was 2-0 as Cooper bagged his second. Kirk Millar fired a ball into the box from the right touchline and it was held up by Cooper, and despite some claims for handball, he fired home into the same corner as his opener, to put the Blues in control at the break.
Needing a big effort in the second half to turn things around, the Braidmen made two changes at the break as Scot Whiteside and Kane were replaced by Andrew Burns and Cathair Friel.
A stop-start opening to the second half meant a less than attractive opening 20 minutes or so, with neither team really threatening a chance let alone a goal. On 73 minutes a chance finally presented itself and it fell the way of the Braidmen. Friel was fouled wide left by Callacher and Winchester's free kick was parried by Rohan Ferguson to Burns at the back post, but he found the side netting.
Straight down the other end Linfield finally gave United's defence cause for concern too in the half when Matthew Clarke ran most of the half with the ball at his feet, before ending his mazy run by firing over from just inside the box. Any chance of a late comeback for the away side was almost ended 8 minutes from time when Millar's cross was cleared by McGrory, but only straight to Jordan Stewart inside the box, however his shot was well blocked by Jim Ervin who threw his body on the line.
Moving into the last five minutes and with neither team ever looking like scoring, a setting up of a grandstand finish by United looked highly unlikely, but with the board for added time about to go up Ballymena pulled one back. McGrory swung a good ball in from the right hand side and after Callacher and Ferguson got themselves in a tangle with Millar loitering, the ball hit the 'keeper and came back off Callacher before going into the back of the net.
In the three minutes of time added on Linfield tested Glendinning on two occasions, whilst Ferguson dealt with a couple of crosses at the other end, but it was Linfield who saw out the 2-1 win.
Ballymena United are on the road again on Friday evening as they travel to The Oval to face Glentoran in the Danske Bank Premiership, kicking off at 7:45pm
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jonathan Addis, Scot Whiteside ( Andrew Burns 46), Ryan Harpur, Steven McCullough, Kenneth Kane ( Cathair Friel 46), Andrew McGrory, Jude Winchester, Jim Ervin, Leroy Millar, Joshua Kelly.

Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Ryan Mayse, Shane McGinty, Declan Carville, Ross Lavery.