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Cliftonville Match Preview

HAMRUN SPARTANS (Malta) [1984/1985 - European Cup Winners Cup First Round]
Overview | Second Leg

BALLYMENA United's dream of reaching the second round of the European Cup Winners' Cup is over.
They travelled to Malta last week to take on Hamrun Spartans trailing by a goal to nil following their first leg failure at the Showgrounds the previous week.
Team boss Alan Campbell decided to use a 4-2-4 formation and brought defender George Beattie on in the midfield. The Beattie call-up was a master-stroke for in the 8th minute he took an accurate through ball from full-back Rab McCreery, sped through and beat the Spartans' keeper Alan Zammit with a low ground shot.
The 15,000 crowd was silenced. United looked to be enroute for the second round.
Even before this United threatened. In the 4th minute Colin O'Neill sent over a cross but Jeff Wright headed wide of the mark.
The early goal rocked the Spartans but instead of building on it United created but could not finish.
With temperatures high in the 80's and the massive support poised to raise the roof should their team equalise the little Irish League side, although in front at this stage, still had a lot to do.
In the 15th and 18th minutes United went close to increasing their lead. An O'Neill free-kick fell for Alan Harrison and his cross was hit over the cross-bar by Beattie. And Alan Campbell saw his effort cleared off the line by Alex Azzopardi.
Ballymena 'keeper Brian Hutchinson came to his side's rescue in the 20th minute, pulling off a reflex save from Michael De Glorgio.
United were not over-awed by their task, took the game to the home side and played some very good football... a healthy change from their first leg showing.
Hamrun Spartans were worried. They packed their defence and at one stage had ten players inside their box!
McCreery, making his 19th European appearance, was booked in the 37th minute by Italian referee G. Pieri. It was a harsh decision for his well timed, but full blooded, tackle on Leo Refalo looked to be fair.
The crowd reacted, giving up a fearful roar. As United fans will remember from the first leg game at Ballymena the Hamrun Spartans players do not like such treatment and within a couple of seconds McCreery found himself being pushed in the throat hurriedly from the scene by one of the home team players. Before McCreery had time to react his own team mates walked him out of the way.
Two minutes from the interval disaster struck United. Benno Stegner, out on the left flank, was allowed to make his way through the visiting defence before putting Ray Xuereb in to score.
It was a bad blow for United who had done more than hold their own for the majority of the half.
Almost on the half time whistle United skipper Graham Fox was involved in a rather unsavioury incident.
His crude tackle on Edwin Farrguia, in which he connected in mid-air, did not go down too well and the grounded Fox looked up to see the football boot of a Spartans player hovering inches from his face!
Manager Campbell took off McCreery at half-time, switched goalscorer Beattie back into defence and brought on Don McAllister in midfield.
One minute after the restart Stegner should have put the Spartans in front but shot tamely past the post.
Big Brian Crockard had his name recorded by the referee in the 52nd minute for a foul on Leo Refalo.
The warm, warm conditions slowed United down and the Spartans began to create. Refalo, a fine player, latched on to through pass from De Giorgio but again Hutchinson came to the rescue with another good save.
Winger Jeff Wright, who was quiet up front, was booked in the 65th minute. The big lad had forced what he thought was a corner-kick and when the referee pointed for a goal-kick Wright threw the ball away.
Three minutes later the Spartans scored the goal which was to put United out of the competition. Stegner was judged by the referee to have been pulled down inside the box by Hutchinson and awarded a penalty kick.
Xuereb took the kick and although Hutchinson got his finger tips to the effort the ball squeezed into the back of the net. The whole place errupted and battling Ballymena were on their way out.
Another chance to pull back into the match went begging in the 73rd minute when Wright, with time to spare, shot weakly at the Hamrun 'keeper when a goal looked to be on.
This was Wright's final fling for a couple of minutes later he was involved in a heavy tackle and had to be carried off the pitch by trainer Willie Cully and Assistant boss Armstrong Beckett. Doagh lad Jim Buchanan came on as substitute.
In the closing minute that man Refalo was put clean through with only Hutchinson to beat he fired his shot over the cross-bar.
Report by Shaun O'Neill - Ballymena Guardian - 20/09/1989

Date: Wednesday, 26th September, 1984
Competition: European Cup Winners Cup First Round First Leg
Venue: Ta' Qali Stadium
Attendance: 15,000
Final Score: Hamrun Spartans 2-1 Ballymena United
Hamrun Spartans: Zammit, Farrugia, Azzopardi, Grech, Xuereb, Azzopardi, Refalo, Robertson, Stegner, Xuereb, de Giorigo.
Goals: N/A
Ballymena United: Hutchinson, McCreery, Fox, Harrison, Crockard, Beattie, Smyth, Sloan, O'Neill, Campbell, Wright. Subs: Carleton, Smith, McAllister, Buchanan.
Goals: N/A
Referee: G. Pieri (Italy)