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Saturday 3rd December v. Cliftonville (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Carrick Rangers MATCH REPORT

ODENSE BK (Denmark) [2004/2005 - UEFA Intertoto Cup First Round]
Overview | First Leg | Second Leg | "I Was There"

AFTER fifteen years; Ballymena United finally returned to European competition in 2004, in the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
This was United's first envolvment in the much maligned competition - which only began in 1996 and gives the winners progression to the first round of the UEFA Cup. However, UEFA's introduction of Club Licencing to compete in European competition had a huge bearing on the Braidmen's envolvment in the competition in 2004.
Kenny Shiels had steered the Sky Blues to sixth place in the Premier League in the club's first season back in the top flight, with Lisburn Distillery finishing 4th in the table - therefore seemingly claiming the place as Northern Ireland's Intertoto Cup representitive.
Distillery, though, weren't one of the five teams granted a UEFA licence in the league and so alongside fifth placed Coleraine, were both ineligible to play in the competition - Ballymena were offered the chance to return to the contenient to take on Danish side, Odense BK in the first round of the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
Despite not being one of the household names of Scandavian football; Odense had caused their own shocks in Europe before having beaten Real Madrid ten years previously in the UEFA Cup over two legs. In that same cup campaign Linfield were also unceremoniously dumped out of the competition by the Danes; 6-1 on aggregate.
Odense, who play in blue and white stripes have also won the Danish League on three occasions in 1977, 1982 and 1989 and had won the Danish Cup four times prior to the game.
With the match being played in late June, and confirmation of United's entry in the competition not complete until May; it gave both officials and supporters little time to prepare for the trip. Also, it meant that boss Shiels would be without a number of players with previous commitments, including new signing Rory Hamill - who had arranged to get married in between the two legs.
The first leg was played on 20th June, 2004 at the Odense Athletic stadium, due to the club's normal ground having undersoil heatening installed over the summer. The match was also played on a Sunday, the first competitive match played on the Sabbath by a Ballymena side. Kenny Shiels' side played a five man defence, in the hope of not being humilated on Danish soil.
Around 100 people travelled in the United party to support the Sky Blues, and it proved to be one of the greatest days in the club's history - as the part-time Braidsiders held the full-time Danes to a scoreless draw on their own turf.
The world class performances from messrs Robert Robinson and Gordon Simms provoked pandimonium in the terraces as the United faithful couldn't believe that the Sky Blues held out through the constant barracking of the away goal.
A night of wild celebration continued, and the local morning papers featured a section on the Ballymena United who were at the game, commenting on the noise and support they given their team.
With a possible fixture away to Spanish giants Villarreal in the second round, United fans dared to dream of another dream adventure. As they prepared for the home leg six days later.
The home leg brought all dreams of European glory crumbling back down to earth as the Danes stepped up a gear and fired seven past Kenny Shiels' side at the Showgrounds without reply.
A hat-trick from Zambian international Mwape Miti, two goals from Stefen Højer and a goal apiece from Kenneth Moller Pederson and Martin Borre, tore the Braidmen apart in the June sunshine. As United undid the good work of the week before.
However, all in all a fantastic European venture on the basis of the away leg alone - leaving the success starved United fans hungry for more.
As for our new found Danish friends, they came undone in the Estido Madrigal in the following round of the competition; losing 5-0 on aggregate to Villarreal. The Spaniards went onto to become one of the three winners of the competition which gained qualification to the First Round of the UEFA Cup, eventually bowing out in the quarter-finals.
Review by Neil Coleman