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Saturday 21st July v. Carrick Rangers (away) - Friendly - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Tuesday, 3rd Apr, 2018 at 23:40

Date: Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 878;
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Cliftonville [2] [3]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: David Anderson; Assistant 2: Paul Robinson; 4th Official: Ken Gibbons;
Goals:
[0-1] GORMLEY, Joe (3 mins), [0-2] DONNELLY, Rory (39 mins), [0-3] DONNELLY, Rory (89 mins)

BALLYMENA United's 3 game winning run ended with a 3-0 defeat to Cliftonville at The Showgrounds.
After securing a top 6 place last time out against Ballinamallard, United's first post-split game came against the side they started their winning streak against at Solitude. On a poor surface at Warden Street it was the visitors who started the quicker and went ahead just 3 minutes in. A route one ball from the back wasn't dealt with at all by Kofi Balmer and it allowed Joe Gormley in before he neatly finished into the bottom corner past Ross Glendinning.
Ballymena's first effort on goal came 5 minutes in via a Tony Kane free kick 20 yards out, but his attempt went over Brian Neeson's crossbar. At the other end The Reds went close again, Stephen Garrett heading a corner across goal for Jay Donnelly, who narrowly put his shot wide. As the opening minutes went on Cliftonville looked more and more comfortable with the Sky Blues struggling to get the ball down. Jamie Harney jumped highest from a corner but headed over before Gormley found Garrett after a quick counter attack, only for Kane to make a brilliant goal-saving tackle.
With Cliftonville continuing to pile on the pressure, a looping shot from the edge of box from Gormley went just over. Ballymena were reduced to long range efforts with Fra McCaffrey shooting well over from 25 yards with little other options available. Then, Neeson pulled off a fantastic double save to keep his side in front. First, a quick throw from Jim Ervin sent Matthew Shevlin clear, but one on one Neeson saved with his legs. Seconds later a cross from Ervin was headed down and goalwards by Kyle Owens but Neeson got down well to save.
Those saves would prove the first of two turning points in two minutes. After Gormley flashed a shot wide despite appearing to be considerably offside, Ballymena's anger at the lack of a flag ended with Cathair Friel receiving a straight red card, seemingly for dissent.
5 minutes after the sending off things got worse for the Braidmen as The Reds doubled their lead. Garrett delivered a perfectly weighted low ball for Rory Donnelly who poked the ball home past Glendinning to make it 2-0 at half time.
United showed a lot more purpose and carried a bigger threat in the second half despite being a man down and had the first opening of the half. McCaffrey flicked a long ball into the path of Shevlin who looked set to break through on goal, only to be denied by a superb last ditch tackle by Levi Ives. United saw a lot of the ball with little end product, not helped by the loss of Friel, but a nice piece of play from Joe McKinney teed up Ervin, only for the skipper to fire just wide. With the home side probing, Owens headed a corner back into the box for McKinney, who saw his own header blocked on the line by Jay Donnelly.
With 20 minutes left Gormley missed a great chance to put the game beyond Ballymena. The striker met a cross from sub Chris Curran at the near post but couldn't keep it below the bar. Shortly afterwards Jay Donnelly hurdled challenges from first Ervin and then Owens, before Balmer made a great tackle as Donnelly was getting his shot away. Just inside the final 15 minutes, with Ballymena needing a goal quickly to set up an interesting final 10 minutes, McCaffrey had a shot deflected just wide by Shane Grimes.
From the corner it was Owens' turn to have a header stopped on the line, this time Jamie McGovern making the block having just come on as a sub. Ballymena were forced into a change on 77 minutes with McKinney hobbling off, being replaced by Leroy Millar. Late on Connor Quigley turned an effort from inside the box inches wide before McCaffrey flashed a volley also wide after good closing down from Millar.
However with 1 minute left the North Belfast side wrapped up the win when a low shot from Rory Donnelly bobbled its way along the ground and past Glendinning, who had managed to get a hand on it, as Cliftonville banished any slim hopes Ballymena had of leapfrogging them into 5th come the end of April.
Next up for the Sky Blues is a trip to the National Stadium in Belfast on Saturday, where they will face Linfield, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Paul Irwin
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane ( 56), Kyle Owens, Johnny Flynn, Cathair Friel ( 34), Matthew Shevlin, Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin, Fra McCaffrey, Joe McKinney ( Leroy Millar 78), Conor Quigley.

Subs not used: Thomas McDermott, Conor McCloskey, Willie Faulkner, Ciaran Dobbin.