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Monday 27th July v. Coleraine (neutral) - Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup SF - k.o: 4:00pm

Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup semi-final

Uploaded Saturday, 22nd Feb, 2020 at 19:28

Date: Saturday, 22nd February, 2020; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1035;
Cliftonville [0] [1]
Ballymena United [1] [1]
Venue: Solitude; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Lee Tavinder; Assistant 1: Paul Robinson; Assistant 2: Richard Storey; 4th Official: Tony Clarke;
[0-1] MILLAR, Leroy (30 mins), [1-1] GORMLEY, Joseph (67 mins)

BALLYMENA United picked up their first league point of 2020 with a well deserved 1-1 draw with Cliftonville at Solitude.
Ryan Harpur returned to United's starting XI after a lengthy injury lay off, with Leroy Millar also overcoming injury to start, as the sides met for the first time since that heart-breaking Toals Co. Antrim Shield final last month.
The game was played in seemingly endless strong winds, making chances in the first half at a premium despite some decent play from both teams. Scot Whiteside was unfortunate to somehow see yellow inside a minute, but from the resulting free kick Joe Gormley fired wide. The Sky Blues' first chance came on ten minutes and was a good one. Steven McCullough delivered a free kick towards the near post for Jonny Addis, with surely any touch at all sending the ball home, but it was narrowly missed by the centre half.
From there neither goalmouth saw much action up until the half hour mark, despite some good football from both teams, with Ballymena probably just shading it. Eventually a chance came and Ross Glendinning did well to save Conor McMenamin's shot from distance, before the Braidmen broke the deadlock on 30 minutes, just as the Reds were probing. The move was started and ended by Millar, who dispossessed Chris Curran in the middle. He played a good one-two with Adam Lecky who put Millar through and he did the rest, finishing neatly under Richard Brush in front of the away end.
Until half-time again there was little to report in terms of chances, but United did survive two injury scares. First Ross Glendinning called for attention on a hand injury but was fine to continue, before Lecky took a blow to the head which strangely didn't see play stopped straight away. He eventually was attended to but thankfully carried on as Ballymena took a deserved lead into the break.
The wind continued at pace as the second half got underway and it was Cliftonville who started well. Just three minutes into the half McMenamin looked set to bring the hosts level when a cross fell kindly for him, but Addis, fantastic all game, made a crucial block. At the other end some great switching play between wing back's McCullough and Reece Glendinning allowed McCullough time to fizz a ball across goal, but it was narrowly missed by Joe McCready and Brush gratefully gathered.
Cliftonville turned to Ryan Curran from the bench before the hour mark and almost straight away he had a great chance to level. A miskick by Reece Glendinning allowed Curran in, but Ross Glendinning bailed his brother out by making a good low save. Ballymena were dealt another injury blow when Harpur, making his first appearance since December, was forced off with what looked like a hamstring problem. Yet more injury misery for Harpur who made a real difference back in the side, and he was replaced by James Knowles.
Five minutes after the change Cliftonville levelled. Chris Curran's cross took a nick off McCullough and landed for Gormley whose half volley on the turn came off the left post and crossed the line at the other post.
Ballymena would've expected to come under a lot of Cliftonville pressure in the final twenty minutes and did to a certain extent, but without large amounts of clear cut chances. The closest the Reds came was ten minutes from time when both sides had chances inside a minute. Chris Curran found namesake Ryan who in turn found McMenamin and his effort from the edge of the box was expertly tipped over by Glendinning. United broke from the resulting corner through McCready and he found McCullough who saw a well struck shot from distance palmed round the post by Brush.
Towards the end Cliftonville threw numerous balls into Ballymena's box but they were dealt with at ease as Ballymena picked up a good point they were more than worthy of, ahead of next week's huge Irish Cup tie at Ballinamallard.
Ballymena United take the trip to Ferney Park next Saturday afternoon to face Ballinamallard United in the quarter-finals of the Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Jonathan Addis, Scot Whiteside ( 5), Ryan Harpur ( James Knowles 63), Steven McCullough, Joseph McCready, Jude Winchester, Adam Lecky, Leroy Millar, Reece Glendinning.

Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Cathair Friel, Kenneth Kane, Andrew Burns, Kofi Balmer, Kyle Owens.