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Saturday 22nd July v. HW Welders (away) - Friendly - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 13th May, 2017 at 00:17

Date: Friday, 12th May, 2017; Competition: Europa League Play-Off - Final; Attendance: N/A;
Ballymena United [0] [2]
Glenavon [0] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Arnold Hunter; Assistant 1: Richard Storey; Assistant 2: Ken Ross; 4th Official: Andrew Davey;
Goals:
[1-0] FRIEL, Cathair (53 mins), [1-1] MARSHALL, Rhys (67 mins), [2-1] BRANIFF, Kevin (80 mins)

BALLYMENA United have qualified for the Europa League qualifiers after beating Glenavon 2-1 at The Showgrounds.
The teams line up before the game
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Captains and Officials before kick off
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The occasion showed for both sides with a nervy start to the game. Glenavon threatened early however when Johnny Flynn made a fantastic last ditch tackle to stop James Singleton. Glenavon went close on 13 minutes when Jim Ervin was caught out and Joel Cooper was able to capitalise, but his angled shot was dragged wide. As Ballymena could only create half chances at best, Kris Lindsay headed just over from a corner.

Joe McKinney almost got his boot on the end of an Allan Jenkins ball across the box as Ballymena began to show more intent. Just after the half hour mark Kyle Owens rose highest to meet a Tony Kane corner, but could only head wide. Both sides had their best chances of the first half in the final 5 minutes. First up it was United who went close. A dangerous free kick from Kane was met by the head of Cathair Friel, but he couldn't keep it on target.
Cathair Friel in action
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Young fans showing their true colours
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Then down the other end, with one minute left to play, Ross Glendinning pulled off a terrific double save. James Gray passed the United defence, only to be denied by the leg of Glendinning. The ball fell to the feet of Ciaran Martyn on the edge of the box, but his shot too was kept out by the Sky Blue stopper as the half ended 0-0.
Joe McKinney challenges for the ball in the first half
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A fantastic turnout of fans were in full voice
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Ballymena started the second half more promising than they had in the first and on 53 minutes the Sky Blues broke the deadlock through the returning Friel. Having missed Monday's win over Dungannon, Friel made his presence known when he flicked home a cross from Johnny McMurray, after McKinney did fantastically on the left wing. Friel preceded to use the baby cradling celebration after the recent birth of his son.
Cathair Friel and Tony Kane Rock The Baby
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Ballymena almost doubled the lead just two minutes later. Kane won the ball back and found goal scorer Friel, who supplied McMurray, but with space in the box, McMurray completely miss hit the ball wide of Jonathan Tuffey's goal. McMurray went close again shortly after when he opted to shot over finding Friel, but his volley went straight at Tuffey.

The visitors equaliser came on 67 minutes. Substitute Andy Hall's deep corner was headed back across goal into the six yard box, where Rhys Marshall pounced to hammer the ball into the roof of the net.

Just 5 minutes later Ballymena missed a golden opportunity to regain the lead. McMurray did well to keep the ball in play near the by line and crossed for McKinney who was arriving, but from 12 yards he smashed the ball over the bar. With 15 minutes left Willie Faulkner made way for Kevin Braniff in a change that would prove vital.

The Lurgan Blues couldn't have came closer to taking the lead themselves when Hall's free kick from all of 25 yards rattled the post before United cleared their lines. On the 80 minute came the winning goal as sub Braniff sent the home stand wild. Braniff did fantastically well to turn two Glenavon players and from 25 yards he had a look up, before unleashing a shot which took a deflection and cannoned onto the underside of the bar and over the line.
Kevin Braniff congratulated after scoring the winning goal
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The goal made it an extremely nervous final 10 minutes, although McMurray almost sealed it with a low shot which deflected wide. With 2 minutes left Fra McCaffrey replaced McKinney who was stretchered off after a dangerous fall to the ground. McKinney was taken to hospital for precautionary checks in an injury that hopefully isn't too serious.

Play restarted after a 5 minute delay and in added time Cooper squandered a glorious chance to take us to extra time. A ball over the top found Cooper in space in the box, but he connected poorly and Glendinning gathered. It proved to be the final chance as Arnold Hunter blew up to cue crazy celebrations in the home stand, and they carried onto the pitch, as well as David Jeffrey producing some nice dance moves as Ballymena secured European football for the first time in 13 years to end a memorable season for Sky Blues.
Tony Kane and David Jeffrey celebrate the win
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David Jeffrey applauds the fans after the game
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The players and staff celebrate the win
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One delighted young fan sums the night up!
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A group of former Ballymena United players take on a side from Carluke in Scotland to raise money for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust. For more details click here.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Kyle Owens, Johnny Flynn, Allan Jenkins, Willie Faulkner ( Kevin Braniff 74), Cathair Friel ( 76), Jim Ervin, Leroy Millar, Joe McKinney ( Fra McCaffrey 88), Johnny McMurray.

Subs not used: Tim Allen, Darren Henderson, Michael Kerr.