McLaughlin experiences first draw against Braidmen

Cliftonville 1-1 Ballymena United

By Paul Alexander

Cliftonville remain undefeated at Solitude under the stewardship of Paddy McLaughlin following a 1-1 draw with Ballymena United in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday afternoon.

Rory Donnelly could have put the hosts ahead with only two minutes gone. The striker tried to chip the ball across goal from the right side of the 18-yard box but his effort dropped wide of the far post.

Although the North Belfast side did go in front within 60 seconds through the attack-minded Ryan Curran. Twenty-five-year-old Curran’s soft finish sent United keeper Ross Glendinning in the wrong direction. The afternoon’s opening goal was Curran’s seventh since McLaughlin’s appointment – his 13th in all competitions this season.

Leroy Millar and Johnny McMurray combined in the eighth minute for Ballymena in an attempt to balance the scoreline. Millar’s cross from the left corner of the pitch found McMurray, however Reds’ goalkeeper Richard Brush collected the ball after the striker’s first-time connection.

The Sky Blue duo were both involved in their side’s equaliser as the game’s only other goal also arrived inside the opening 15 minutes. Cliftonville centre-back Garry Breen made an important interception as Millar’s right wing ball was almost met by Adam Lecky. Although Breen’s interception was not followed by a clearance which allowed McMurray to finish past Brush.

There was a lack of noteworthy opportunities during the remainder of the first-half as both sides had their own issues. The home side couldn’t move the ball up to Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly at the top of the pitch, whilst the Braidmen struggled with their final ball.

After six second-half minutes Cliftonville’s Ryan Curran moved in from the left wing but his shot was well wide of the right post. Similar to the opening 45 minutes, the second-half contained a limited number of significant chances.

On 73 minutes Gormley tried to give the Reds the lead for a second time in the match, however his effort bounced wide of the target. The visitors came close at the opposite end with 89 minutes played. Andy McGrory’s corner-kick from the left reached Kofi Balmer but the centre-back’s shot was held by Brush.

Cliftonville: Brush, Gorman, Breen, Harney, Ives (McMenamin, 86), Bagnall, R. Curran, Grace, C. Curran, Gormley, R. Donnelly

Subs not used: Neeson, McGovern, R. Harkin, McConnell, Maguire, A. Donnelly

Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Ervin, Watson, McCullough, Millar, Whiteside, McGrory, Balmer, Lecky, McMurray

Subs not used: Williamson, Kane, Quigley, Mayse, McGinty, Faulkner, Shevlin

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)

In-Touch Man of the Match: Leroy Millar (Ballymena)

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