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Saturday 17th November v. Cliftonville (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Thursday, 10th May, 2018 at 08:18

Date: Wednesday, 9th May, 2018; Competition: Europa League Play-Off - Semi-Final; Attendance: 934;
Cliftonville [0] [4]
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Venue: Solitude; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Raymond Crangle; Assistant 1: Richard Storey; Assistant 2: Andrew Neeson; 4th Official: Steven Gregg;
Goals:
[1-0] DONNELLY, Jay (67 mins), [2-0] DONNELLY, Jay (81 mins), [3-0] GORMLEY, Joe (85 mins), [4-0] GORMLEY, Joe (88 mins)

BALLYMENA United's season came to an end on Wednesday night with a 4-0 defeat to Cliftonville at Solitude in the Europa League Play-offs.
Almost as expected Cliftonville started the quicker, with Jay Donnelly causing problems early on. First the forward saw a goalwards header cleared by Jim Ervin before another Donnelly header from a free kick went well wide. The next chance fell on 8 minutes to the other Donnelly, Rory. Joe Gormley picked out Chris Curran and his shot deflected to Donnelly who sent a bicycle kick wide.
United had their first effort on goal on 10 minutes. Stephen McAlorum found Cathair Friel with a ball over the top with Friel lifting the ball over Brian Neeson and the crossbar. With Ballymena starting to get a hold in the game Friel got the better of Tomas Cosgrove before cutting inside and firing just wide.
The home side tested Ross Glendinning for the first time after Gormley met a Curran free kick, but his header went straight at United's 'keeper. On 22 minutes Kevin Braniff received a booking after an off the ball altercation with Liam Bagnall, who was also booked, and 10 minutes later Braniff received a second yellow, catching Conor McDonald on the thigh whilst trying to bring the ball under control.
The sending off stretched the Sky Blues' defensive unit further but the Reds rarely troubled Glendinning for the rest of the half. Gormley headed a throw in well over before forcing Glendinning into a good, low save. In the final 5 minutes Rory Donnelly managed to keep the ball in play and his cross was cleared by Kofi Balmer, only as far as Curran on the edge of the box, but with Glendinning off his line, Andrew Burns made a vital block from Curran's shot as the half ended goalless.
It was an expected backs to the wall performance from the Braidmen in the second half and they held out well for 20 minutes. The league's top scorer Gormley was causing more problems and flashed a shot from a Cosgrove cross inches wide. Some nice play at the other end from Fra McCaffrey, Leroy Millar and McAlorum ended with the latter dragging a low shot wide of Neeson's goal. 7 minutes later Ballymena did well to win a corner and it was headed just wide by Burns at the back post.
On the hour mark Cliftonville centre half Jamie Harney missed two good chances inside 2 minutes. The first came after Harney met a corner near post but should've done better, heading it wide. Seconds later Harney got up highest again but sent the ball over the bar. On 64 minutes Rory Donnelly missed a glorious chance to give the hosts the lead. Gormley lifted the ball into Donnelly who only had Glendinning to beat from extremely close range but somehow the 'keeper was able to pull off a fantastic save to keep it level.
Two minutes later it was the same combination with Donnelly missing another sitter. Gormley flashed a ball across goal for Donnelly who somehow sent the ball wide. However Ballymena's resistance was finally broken on 67 minutes. Jay Donnelly picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and hurdled a challenge before firing a low shot past Glendinning to give the Reds the lead.
The Sky Blues were restricted to half chances at best with a Tony Kane free kick from long range making easy pickings for Neeson. Burns was forced off with 20 minutes left and was replaced by the departing Kyle Owens who straight away put his body on the line, blocking an effort from Curran.
With 9 minutes left Cliftonville found a second. After pin ball in the Cliftonville box sub Stephen Garrett broke on the counter attack. After escaping a McAlorum tackle he crossed for Jay Donnelly who slotted the ball home for his second of the night.
The goal broke United and it was 3-0 on 85 minutes. Garrett broke free again, crossing yet again for Donnelly who in turn found Gormley who made no mistake in beating Glendinning.
Just 3 minutes later the misery was compounded with a 4th goal for the North Belfast side. Glendinning made a smart save to deny Garrett but it fell to Gormley who curled a nice effort into the top corner, the game ending 4-0 and bringing United's season to a close.
We'll bring you news of our pre-season friendlies in due course.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Stephen McAlorum, Cathair Friel, Kevin Braniff ( 21 32), Andrew Burns ( Kyle Owens 64), Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin, Leroy Millar, Fra McCaffrey ( Joe McKinney 68), Conor Quigley ( Matthew Shevlin 78).

Subs not used: Conor McCloskey, Willie Faulkner.