Ballymena United v Lisburn Distillery (Bet McLean League Cup 1st Round) – Tuesday 3rd October 2023
Lisburn Distillery travelled north on Tuesday night to face Ballymena United in the first round of the League Cup, having beaten Ballymacash Rangers in the preliminary round. This marked the first time the two sides had met competitively since the days when this was an all Premier League fixture.
With one eye perhaps on Saturday’s league game against Dollingstown, Barry Johnston made some changes from the defeat to Queens at the weekend; Ethan Carry, Ryan Sharkey, Jamie Devenny and Justin Grattan started with Craig Robinson, Curtis Woods, Gerard Storey and Ryan McNickle dropping out.
The visitors enjoyed a bright start to the game and gave the top-flight outfit an early scare when after four minutes a United defender diverted a Sharkey cross from the right towards his own goal. The Sky Blues stopper, Sam Johnston, fumbled the ball nut managed to get a firmer grasp of it at the second half to snuff out any chance of the Whites taking a shock lead.
In truth, the game had few talking points but Ballymena soon began to gain the upper hand, though Carry in the Distillery goal remained untested. In the 15th minute, a home player went for a speculative overhead kick from a free kick but it was well off target and a few minutes later a cross from the left flashed cross the Whites goal but fortunately, no one was there to provide the necessary final touch.
In the 24th minute, Johnny McMurray flicked the ball goal wards from a deep free kick but it went just inches wide of Carry’s right hand post, this being the closest the home side had come to opening the scoring.
Jim Ervin’s side did eventually take the lead with 25 minutes on the clock, Fiontan O’Boyle collected a pass from the right and turned the Distillery defender inside the box and immediately shot for goal. The ball took a slight deflection and Carry looked to have it covered but the ball seemed to slip through his grasp and crossed the line much to the captain’s frustration.
Ballymena would add to more goals to their tally before the half was done, firstly Alex Gawne headed home at the back post following a short corner and McMurray scored from outside the box when United quickly countered after a Distillery move broke down.
Half Time: Ballymena United 3-0 Lisburn Distillery
Unfortunately, for Distillery the second half could not have gotten off to a worse start as in the first minute of the second half McMurray scored his second and Ballymena’s fourth goal of the night to well and truly put the game to bed.
After this, the Premiership side perhaps took their foot off the gas and Ervin opted to make a number of changes with the game all but wrapped up.
There was a rare Distillery attack just before the hour mark but the final cross from the right was just too far out of substitute McNickle’s reach and Johnstone claimed the ball.
Distillery also made a number of changes with Robert Geddis, Gledis Cakaj and Carter Savage all joining the fray; alongside McNickle and Woods who had come on in the first half and at half-time respectively.
Carry was called into action in the 77th minute, the Distillery ‘keeper came right to the edge of his box to try and claim the ball but could only partially clear the danger and had to use his body to block the ball from a few yards outside his box.
The last real talking point of note came in the 82nd minute when the visitors thought they had pulled a goal back after Michael Gallagher poked home but the offside flag cut the subdued celebrations short.
In the end, the game perhaps served to show the gulf in class between the two divisions but the Whites have an early chance to put some points on the board when we travel to Dollingstown on Saturday.
Full Time: Ballymena United 4-0 Lisburn Distillery
Lisburn Distillery; Carry, Lewis, Flynn, McDermott, Angus, Sharkey, Newell, Tully, Devenny, Gallagher, Grattan
Lisburn Distillery substitutions; Robinson, Woods (for Sharkey, 46 mins), McNickle (for Tully, 45+1 mins), Geddis (for Grattan, 63 mins), Cakaj (for Flynn, 63 mins), Savage (for Lewis, 52 mins), McCart
Match report by Cameron Moore (@cameron2604)