Ballymena United 2-0 Glentoran reserves

Well I did suggest that we needed to be at our very best if we were ever going to take anything from this game last night. We simply weren’t so we didn’t! Overall, we were well beaten on the night by a much more eager, & enthusiastic Ballymena side, who set their stall out right from the start determined to ensure that we never got into our stride. The game evidently finished in their favour by two goals to nil, however, we can register no complaints as this result was probably more than justified.

The opening twenty minutes in this first half seen quite a lot of Ballymena pressure but they really had little to show for their efforts. One of their ilk tried his luck with a splendidly executed chip, from practically the edge of the eighteen yard, but just as it seemed that it was about to dip under the crossbar, the frame of big Aaron Hogg lifted itself of the ground, arms fully extended to prevent it from entering our net.

The sky Blues certainly enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but as I said they seldom threatened: We ourselves in all probability created the first real good opening chance of the game. Young Lee Chapman happened to the carved down, say approx about a yard or so to the far right of the eighteen yard box. The resulting free kick was whipped into the box with a swirling, wicked pace by the king of the set piece, the always fluent Mattie Kerr. The ball arrived at the far left post that in turn was met by Mark Clarke – a much improved performance last night incidentally – who headed it goalbound. At the angle that we were all at, we actually thought that Clarke’s header was entering the net but amazingly young Ryan Mahood slid in to somehow blast the ball over the crossbar when he was practically underneath it!
It was clear evidence that this was certainly not going to be our night!

Ballymena remained a real threat: They engineered one great move that all stemmed from the left of the pitch, a superbly crafted ball hit with the outside of the foot, made it’s way up that wing to a fellow colleage. He controlled, cut into the right, then unleashed a great curling shot that big Hoggy did well to contain & gather.

I thought that our best performance last night came from Mark Hillen – playing on the right wing. Mark despatched a series of first class crosses throughout the entire first half from that position but unfortunately we just couldn’t capitalize upon them.
In one instance, Mark made a storming run, head down, before guiding across an almost inch perfect cross for the out of sorts Danny McKee – who had taken up a good position within the box – somehow ‘scoop’ the ball from close range that the Ballymena keeper caught with great ease. Danny might have done much better rattling it along the ground whereby the target was much more wider & gaping!

Ballymena took the lead after Mark Clarke was easily mugged in midfield from a central position. The sky blue shirt delivered a ball to to edge of the left of the 18 yard box, but the player who received it was upended. The free kick was struck straight into our wall – that unfortunately split – the ball thus took a wicked unkind deflection, spinning into the right of our net as Aaron Hogg was completely caught flatfooted. 1-0 Ballymena.

Our response to this was a a couple more almost perfectly timed Mark Hillen crosses, all played from the right of the wing. The first was an absolutely sensational ball delivered with almost great position to the far left hand post toward the in rushing Mattie Kerr. Just as thought that young Kerr about to wreck the net with it, a last gasp desperado defensive header from a sky-blue jersey managed to ‘knick’ the ball away from Mattie, thwarting a certain goal!

Young Adam Calvert – a highly impressive young fellow that I predict will have a big future at Glentoran – made one great galloping penetrative run down the left. This tremendous young lad did extremely well to roll his cross into the box, however, this was only half cleared by the Ballymena defence. Ryan Mahood met the botched clearance with with a full blooded attempt on goal that just thundered wide of the left hand post!

Mark Hillen – again, proving himself a real handful for the sky blue defence – once more, sent forward yet another beautifully weighed ball straight into the box in the direction of our midfield General Mason McSorley – bit on this occasion, he too scuffed the shot, sending it wide of the right hand post when if we are to be honest it was yet another good chance gone abegging!

Mark was like a terrier sprinting down that wing: On one occasion he hammered across yet another great ball from that same position but where were all our forwards, surely anticipating this? They appeared to have gone AWOL or else fallen asleep!

Then came a moment to almost savour, one completely out of the blue: The young midfield maestro Mason McSorley tried his luck with the most delicate, exquisite chip from all of thirty five yards. This glorious attempt on goal, dipped over the hapless keeper but just landed over the intended target by a mere millimetre, eventually cushioned onto the netting that adjoined the crossbar! Absolutely sensational effort from one of the most gifted young men in the reserves, still only a schoolboy too!

Ballymena nearly went two ahead after some silly gimmickry from Aaron Hogg almost lead to a tragicomedy. Big Hoggy attempted a little ‘showmanship’ by dribbling out of his area but this went all horribly wrong when he was dispossessed outside his comfort zone. Thankfully, though, our Captain, Colin Smith was on hand to hook the danger clear alas also sparing the blushes of our keeper of what might have been!

I have laid much emphasis upon our first half performance for I felt that we at least competed at certain intervals. The same could not be said for the majority of the second.

Half time:

Ballymena Reserves 1-0 Glentoran Seconds.

It would be true to say that we started the more livelier within the opening second half period. Danny McKee, ran into the left of the box but unfortunately fired well wide of the right hand post. I wish not to sound critical but could Danny maybe have squared the ball further into the box instead of opting for glory himself? Certainly, his Glentoran colleague who had raced into the box alongside him to take up a good position seemed to think so as did we on the terraces!

Midfield General Mason McSorley treated us all to a delightful piece of skill, when, he ‘flicked’ the ball over an opponent, this occurred in a mdfield central role, dummied another opponent before distributing a lovely ball to the right that singled out Mattie Kerr. Mattie, took a touch, then drove a shot that bounced & bobbled along the ground although the Ballymena keeper caught it comfortably enough.

Soon afterward we thought we got the break that would bring us back into it! Ryan Mahood was adjudged by the official to have been upended in the box – although in fairness to Ballymena the challenge seemed a little innocuous – Up stepped Mark Hillen to place the ball on the spot. Well as this wasn’t to be our night I think we can all guess what happened next! Mark’s penalty was a tame one, the keeper managed to save it fairly easily! It was hard on Mark who otherwise had a really fine match. Perhaps if we had converted some of those earlier chances that Mark was instrumental in setting up, we wouldn’t have been so heavily reliant on a spot kick award to bring us back into this game in the first place!

Danny McKee made a very good run when he cut along the by-line taking the ball toward goal, but from an extremely acute angle tried to beat goalkeeper Addis. Surely, again, his best option would have been to roll the ball back to the edge of the 18 yard line where a Glentoran colleague had descended, almost surged expecting, perhaps, this cut back? Either way Danny chose to go it alone thereby the chance came to nothing other than a bread & butter save by the keeper!

From that moment onwards our night came to an abrupt end. Ballymena controlled affairs from here on in. We ourselves have scored some spectacular goals this season but last night we became a victim of one. Their second was pure class, an absolutely magnificent chip from all of fully 30 yards that had goal written all over it from the moment it left his foot. It dipped over big Hoggy into the right of the goal for a truly wonderful finish. You must give credit when due.

They then went onto force Hoggy into a string of first class saves as they enjoyed now almost total domination: Hoggy had to be alert as he pulled of a great save struck from just outside the box. In another instance, Hoggy was forced to come charging out, the ball spun of his body toward goal but Colin Smith headed it off the line. Another attack seen Hoggy spurned into action to make a great save from a thunderbolt heading straight for the target: Ballymena almost scored again after one of their number blazed a shot just wide of the upright. Adam Calvert showed great awareness as he backtracked an opponent all the way back into the box as Mattie Kerr had lost possession, the young mans persistence finally paying dividends as the chance came to nothing.

Stephen Boyd had came on in the latter stages of this game as so to did young Eithan Knipe. Both men generated a much needed sense of urgency into the game although by now probably a lost cause. Stephen, on the right, cut into the box – although it seemed the initial control came about by over usage of ‘the hand’ however the referee failed to spot this. Stephens eventual shot just landed wide of the right hand post. In another attack, Stephen cleverly sidestepped two challenges before rasping a sterling effort just wide of that same right hand post.

Eithan Knipe attempted one from twenty yards, a real power-blaster of a shot that was unlucky just to whisk past the upright. It really was a first class effort though.

Incidentally, last nights referee whom he have encountered on a few previous occasions – was actually very good compared to the standard that he normally sets himself thus applies. He is usually normally utterly abysmal. Last night, he was just very, very poor. At least we have a tell tale sign of slight improvement!

Right, enough of this. To sum it all up not our finest hour & most certainly not our finest performance! I do not need to remind anyone here that we have now deservedly lost two on the trot. Let us please ensure that we do not make this a third!

Glentoran Seconds:

1/ Aaron Hogg 2/ Lee Chapman 3/ Adam Calvert 4/ Colin Smyth 5/ Calum Birney 6/ Mark Clarke 7/ Matthew Kerr 8/ Ryan Mahood 9/ Danny McKee 10/ Mason McSorley 11/ Mark Hillen

Subs: John Gunning, Gary Watson, Jordan Baxter, Stephen Boyd & Eithan Knipe.