Match report – Ballymacash Rangers 1 v Lisburn Distillery 4 (Bet McLean League Cup Preliminary Round) – Tuesday 29th August 2023
Lisburn Distillery made the short journey to The Bluebell last night for the second game against Ballymacash Rangers in four days. This time there were no league points at stake with the sides competing for a place in the first round of this season’s League Cup.
Barry Johnston made three changes to the starting eleven from the side that lost 3-1 on Saturday; new signing Craig Robinson went straight into the side in goals in place of Ethan Carry and full debuts were given to Jamie Devenny and Ryan Sharkey who came in for Joe Tully and Dean Lewis.
The visitors, debuting their new purple away kit, had a good start to the game with Johnny Newell testing Brian Neeson, in goals for Ballymacash, in the second minute but the former Carrick and Cliftonville stopper was equal to it. Three minutes later, Distillery were on the attack again when Michael Gallagher played a good ball through to Ryan McNickle but the in-form Distillery striker surprisingly seemed to hesitate with taking his shot and when he opted to cross the danger was cleared. Just moments later Neeson fumbled another cross into the box from the left but was able to recover the loose ball before any Distillery players could take advantage.
Kyle Flynn was then denied by the Ballymacash woodwork as his free kick from the edge of the box clipped the bar after eight minutes and two minutes later, the same player tried his luck from open play but this time his shot went wide of the goal.
After a good opening ten minutes for Distillery, Ballymacash began to gain a foothold in the game and were able to slow the play down by winning a few set pieces. The closest they came to scoring though, was a Jordan Morrison shot from the edge of the box after the Whites defence had pushed up following a free kick but this effort did not trouble Robinson.
In the 22nd minute Distillery players and supporters appealed for a penalty when McNickle was brought down when challenging Neeson for the ball inside the area but the referee was unmoved and play continued but it was just another two minutes before Distillery took a deserved lead.
The Whites attacked down the left and when a cross went into the box it struck a Ballymacash defender, the Distillery players again appealed for a penalty believing the ball had hit a hand but in the meantime the ball travelled across the box and reached Devenny who hammered the ball past Neeson into the back of the net.
At this point Distillery fans minds may have went back to Saturday when the Whites also took a deserved lead in the game only for Ballymacash to come back and win 3-1 but this time Johnston’s men showed no signs in letting up. In fact, only the post stopped McNickle from doubling the lead in the 26th minute with a looping header and a defender was forced into a goal-line clearance from the rebound.
The visitors did double their lead with three minutes of first half normal time remaining, a good touch from McNickle put him through with only Neeson to beat but it was looking like it was not to be the number ten’s night as he shot straight at the goalkeeper. Neeson could only parry McNickle’s shot though and could do nothing about the rebound, which fell for Gallagher who sent the ball home.
Again, if there was an expectation that Distillery might take their foot off the gas at this point, it was not to be and a two-goal lead became a three-goal lead in the first minute of first half injury time. The Whites set off on the counter from their own half and the ball ended up with Ryan Sharkey, who performed well throughout, on the right and he crossed into the box were McNickle finally got his name on the scoresheet heading past Neeson for the second time in four days.
It could have been 4-0 before the half ended, McNickle intercepted a poor back pass to Neeson but the goalkeeper rushed off his line and managed to force the Distillery attacker wide and the opportunity was gone.
The referee eventually called time on what had been an excellent first half for Distillery and there could have been no better response to Saturday’s defeat against the same opponents.
Half Time: Ballymacash Rangers 0-3 Lisburn Distillery
With perhaps one eye on Saturday’s league game against Banbridge the Whites started the second half with one change to the side, McNickle made way and was replaced by Craig McCutcheon. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ballymacash made a triple substitution in addition to one change that they had made before the break, leaving Lee Forsythe with just one further change available to him during the second half.
Despite the three-goal lead, there was still a feeling amongst the Whites supporters that it was important not to concede early in the half and offer our hosts a way back into the game. Unfortunately, Distillery did just that ten minutes after the break when one of the half time substitutions for Ballymacash, Carl McComb, was able to take advantage of some slack defending from a free kick to pull a goal back.
Two minutes after conceding their first goal of the game Distillery almost conceded again when once again the defence struggled to clear another free kick but thankfully debutant Robinson was able to make a greet fingertip save to deny a bullet header from a Ballymacash player that had looked destined for the net.
After this the Whites settled and whilst Ballymacash certainly had most of the ball in the second half they really only threatened from set-pieces, which the Distillery defence were largely able to deal with and Robinson’s goal remained mostly protected.
The next chance of note came in the 77th minute, substitute Michael Moore found himself in shooting range and did just that but his effort was deflected behind by a Distillery defender.
With Ballymacash pushing men forward in an attempt to find any way back into the game, the Whites were able to exploit some of the spaces that were appearing in the Ballymacash half and substitute Gledis Cakaj had a couple of efforts on goal. The first of these was deflected behind for a corner and Neeson held the second.
Distillery did add a fourth goal to their tally late in injury time, when the ball was played downfield Gallagher was able to bet the offside trap and make a run into the box with the ball, as the number nine attempted to round Neeson he was brought down by the goalkeeper with the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Gallagher stepped up and dusted himself down to send Neeson the wrong way from the penalty spot, getting his second goal of the game.
Eventually the referee called time on the game with the Whites players, staff and supporters able to celebrate a great win and team performance. There is no let-up though as attention now turns to Saturday’s game away to Banbridge Town and a return to league action.
Full Time: Ballymacash Rangers 1-4 Lisburn Distillery
Lisburn Distillery; Robinson, Sharkey, Flynn, McDermott, Angus, Woods, Grattan, Newell, Gallagher, McNickle, Devenny
Lisburn Distillery substitutions; Magill, Cakaj (for Flynn, 82 mins), Geddis (for Devenny, 90+2 mins), McCutcheon (for McNickle, 46 mins), Lewis, Savage