Home News Fixtures Tables Book Tickets Squad Commercial Info History Shop Under 20s
Tuesday 3rd October v. Lisburn Distillery (home) - BetMcLean League Cup rd1 - k.o: 7:45pm

Lisburn Distillery Match Preview

Uploaded Saturday, 9th Sep, 2023 at 18:20

Date: Saturday, 9th September, 2023; Competition: Sports Direct Premiership; Attendance: 613;
Carrick Rangers [0] [0]
Ballymena United [1] [1]
Venue: Belfast Loughshore Arena; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Raymond Crangle; Assistant 1: Kristian Hanna; Assistant 2: Bogdan Sfirloaga; 4th Official: Steven Gregg;
[0-1] Westendorf pen (26 mins)

BALLYMENA United finally have their first points of the new season as a first half Isaac Westendorf penalty was enough to secure a 1-0 win over Carrick at the Loughview Leisure Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Jim Ervin made three changes from Tuesday night's shock Toals Co. Antrim Shield exit to Knockbreda as he returned to Taylor's Avenue, with first starts for Isaac Westendorf and Corrie Burns and a return for Steven McCullough.
It was an even, but fast, start on a sweltering day by the sea, with the game's first effort going high and wide via Ben Tilney, before Sean O'Neill saved a deflected ball across goal by Nedas Maciulaitis. Following those chances, it was United's turn to create, as Fraser Taylor showed terrific feet before bending a shot over and Scot Whiteside had a header held by Ross Glendinning.
On thirteen minutes the hosts had an extremely soft penalty appeal turned down when Danny Purkis made the most of minimal contact, leading to a heated discussion between the two managers in either dugout who had worked together just last season, but ten minutes later a stonewall penalty was given the Braidmen's way. Westendorf had carried on from midweek as he tormented the Carrick backline, and when he knocked the ball past Albert Watson, the former United man brought the loanee down in the box, with the double jeopardy rule helping Watson avoid a red. Westendorf dusted himself down to take the spot kick he'd won, and it just about squeezed past Glendinning to give the forward two goals in his first two games.
The goal gave the visitors reward for a promising opening half hour or so, but they needed O'Neill to be alert again to bat away a Maciulaitis effort, before a glorious chance came the Sky Blues' way. Just beforehand, a fantastic run from a fantastic Donal Rocks started in his own half and ended with a shot blocked in the box, before link up between Westendorf and Taylor should've yielded a goal. The forward's tidy flick round the corner put the Scotsman in with just Glendinning to beat, but the 'keeper made a good stop, before David Cushley denied Taylor again on the rebound.
In the final ten minutes of the half, it was Carrick who pushed and look the more likely to grab a goal before the break. They almost had one eight minutes from the interval, but for a stunning O'Neill double save. After a bit of play around a crowded box, Kyle Cherry's strike was well saved but it landed at the feet of Purkis, however he was denied from point blank range by O'Neill's reflexes, a save so good the Carrick bench were already up to celebrate what looked a certain goal.
The first half had been fairly open and entertaining, but the second forty-five and a bit was less so as United were asked to grind their way to a result. That said, they started brightly and had the half's first chance as a deep Rocks free kick was headed over at the back stick by Kym Nelson. It was one of Nelson's last actions as shortly afterwards injury brought an early end to a good day's work, as he was replaced by Lewis Tennant.
Tilney is so often a bit of a problem when United head to Carrick and as the second half went on his presence continued to grow. The full back danced his way past three men in black before his edge of the box shot was blocked by a top-drawer Colin Coates, before the away side were caught sleeping when a short corner came to Tilney, but his shot was blocked just wide.
Heading into the final twenty minutes it was almost all Carrick as they looked to level, but United stood firm in chasing a first clean sheet this season. A period of sustained pressure was eased when a Watson half volley from all of forty yards flew out of the ground, before another good O'Neill stop denied Mark Surgenor at the near post. Minutes after that save O'Neill was at it yet again when Curtis Allen spun his man on the edge of the box and looked to pick out the bottom corner, but Ballymena's saviour did the business with a diving save.
Such was the shift put in, Coates and Westendorf found themselves down with injury multiple times late on, but with United's three substitute making windows gone the pair had to soldier on, and on the break they could've sown the game up. First, Taylor scuffed a shot well wide, before a mix up between him and Westendorf wasted a great chance. With most of the Amber Army up, Ballymena broke two on one, but Taylor took far too long to play Westendorf in over the top, and by the time he did, the former Newcastle man had strayed offside.
Inside eight minutes of added time, Carrick huffed and puffed but got very little change from Ballymena, with their best chance looking like coming Maciulaitis' way, only for a vital last-ditch touch from Burns.
A feeling of huge relief at full time for United, as Jim Ervin picks up his first points as a manager at the seventh time of asking, with a gritty showing and clean sheet hopefully kickstarting Ballymena's season.
Ballymena United are at home to Sports Direct Premiership newcomers Loughgall next Saturday afternoon, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Sean O'Neill ( 90), Kym Nelson ( Lewis Tennant 59), Corrie Burns, Donal Rocks ( 14), Scot Whiteside, Colin Coates ( 63), Alex Gawne ( Fiontan O'Boyle 70), Ryan Waide ( Cathair Friel 75 80), Steven McCullough, Fraser Taylor ( 32), Isaac Westendorf.

Subs not used: Sam Johnston, Andrew McGrory, TJ Murray, Johnny McMurray.