Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorer :
Andy Waterworth (Pen.) 73'
Ballymena United Scorers :
Conor Keeley 67', 90'
Linfield Yellow Card :
Michael Newberry and Matthew Clarke
Linfield Red Card :
Joel Cooper 90'
Ballymena United Yellow Cards :
Joshua Kelly, Ross Redman
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Michael Newberry (Navid Nasseri 68’), Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Niall Quinn (C), Cammy Palmer, Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart, Joel Cooper, Andy Waterworth
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Conor Pepper, Ryan McGivern, Ross Larkin, Joshua Archer
Ballymena United Team :
Ross Glendinning (GK), Tony Kane, Jim Ervin ©, Conor Keeley, Ross Redman, Owen McKeown (Ryan Harpur 82’), Joshua Kelly, Ryan Waide, Paul McElroy, Shay McCartan, Joe McCready
Linfield didn’t make their dominance of the ball count and set-plays proved their achilles heel as Ballymena United snatched a last-gasp winner against David Healy’s men at the Showgrounds.
The first close shave of the night came when Joel Cooper was picked out on the left side and he made enough space to strike a shot back across the goal with the effort flashing just past the upright.
In a neat move Jordan Stewart also went close for Linfield. Millar gave the ball to Andy Waterworth and he slipped the ball inside for Stewart who curled a left-footed shot just wide of the post from 20 yards.
Kirk Millar played a superb switch ball across to Joel Cooper who typically made room for a shot and hit a sweet strike which looked to be heading for the top corner only for a superb diving save from Ross Glendinning.
The ever-impressive Cammy Palmer will have been disappointed to slash a shot wide at the back post after Cooper’s shot had found a way through, and late in the half Kirk Millar couldn’t have come much closer when the ball set up kindly for a swerving 20 yard volley which flashed agonisingly wide.
Ballymena’s only real chance of the first half came late on when The Blues were caught playing about at the back and midfielder Josh Kelly hit a shot with Chris Johns out of his goal, however Mark Haughey was covering to clear off the line. Johns then made his first save in the last action of the half when Joe McCready met an inswinging free-kick but it was a comfortable enough save.
Half Time: Ballymena United 0 – 0 Linfield
Linfield’s dominance of the ball continued into the second half. Joel Cooper went close again, although it may well have been a cross aimed towards Andy Waterworth in the area, and Ross Glendinning had to be alert to push it around the post when it went through towards the far corner untouched.
Then Ballymena United took the lead against the run of play. Michael Newberry was forced to make a foul when United broke and from the resulting free-kick the Sky Blues got their noses in front. Tony Kane whipped in a free-kick delivery from wide left and defender Conor Keeley tucked it away from close range.
David Healy made an instant change, going to an attacking 3-4-2-1 shape with Navid Nasseri coming on and he made an impact five minutes after his arrival. Having picked the ball up wide left, Nasseri drove at defender Owen McKeown just inside the box and was caught by a trailing leg. Andy Waterworth stepped up and produced a good penalty, beating Ross Glendinning who’d went the right way but was beaten by the precision.
Having grown in belief as the game progressed, Ballymena finished the game strongly and it was an end-to-end finale. The Sky Blues probably should have went ahead when an attacker hooked a shot over from close range, seconds after strong penalty appeals were turned away when a shot was blocked and hit a defender’s arm courtesy of a ricochet.
David Jeffrey’s men passed up another big opportunity moments later as Shay McCartan raced through on goal, only to be denied by a good save by Chris Johns.
With players dropping by the week and Linfield already unable to name a full bench, The Blues lost Joel Cooper when he was sent off in the 90th minute. The winger lost the ball and lunged into a tackle in frustration, although he may well feel hard done by to see a straight red banished.
Then Linfield were hit by a suckerpunch as Ballymena won the game with the last kick. It was another set-play and the same duo as Tony Kane delivered, Chris Johns couldn’t get there and defender Conor Keeley was at the double as he bundled the ball over the line to snatch three points for the Braidmen.
Ultimately Linfield didn’t do enough to make their dominance count and conceded two disappointing goals, however a mention must go to Niall Quinn who captained the team on his 300th appearance for the Club and played well, quite fittingly, in an unfamiliar central midfield role to live up to his reputation for consistency and reliability.
Full Time: Ballymena United 2 – 1 Linfield