United take home the points and go clear at the top

Soccer: Mayo League; Ballina Town 1 Westport United 2

On the ball: Joe Lawless looks to get the ball away despite the pressure of Benny Lavelle. Photo: Ballina Town Facebook

On the ball: Joe Lawless looks to get the ball away despite the pressure of Benny Lavelle. Photo: Ballina Town Facebook

Those who came to Belleek on Saturday evening and were hoping to see a goal fest, were sorely disappointed.

But they should have remembered that while Ballina Town had been scoring goals for fun in the six games before this, their guests had the meanest defence in the league contending only once before last night.

The conditions were perfect for football, but so were the perorations of both sides to cancel each other out and that’s what happened for long periods of the game, with both sides struggling to break down the other and create many clear goal scoring chances for the most part.

Defences were well organised and the tackles in the middle of the park were crisp and sturdy and attacking play was broken up with regularity.

The game opened with a bang when Dylan McKee chased down a ball over the top down the left hand side, Westport’s Joe Lawless never saw him coming and with his back turned as the tried to hook the ball clear he caught McKee with a high foot and McGrath had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick.

Benny Lavelle stepped up to take the penalty, the Ballina hitman had bagged 18 goals already this season before this game. He hit it true and low to the right, but Westport shot stopper Garry Cunningham went the right way and reached out a big paw to scoop the ball away.

Unfortunately for Cunningham none of his defenders were as clued in as he was and Ballina’s winger Fabiano was quickest to react and sent the rebound to the back of the net and his side 1-0 up early doors.

Darren Browne had a chance to level it up on eight minutes but he scooped his effort from a Caoimhin O’Toole cross over the bar. United didn’t have to wait long to restore parity though, Ballina tried to play he ball out from the back they were turned over the the middle of the park.

Westport moved the ball quickly through Jack Murphy, Browne and Phil Keegan who was upended by Emmett Payton and a second spot kick was awarded. Browne stepped up and dove it low to the left hand corner of the goal, Payton did get a hand to it - but it wasn’t enough to keep it out.

Both sides created a couple of half chances over the rest of the half, but nothing to serious to threaten either custodian and they went in level at 1-1 at the break.

Stephen Moyles had a half chance early after the restart and then Fabiano looked to be in on goal but his effort was well blocked by a combination of United defenders. On 54 minutes Ballina looked to be in for a second goal - Lavelle was put through down the left hand side, he cut into he box and got off a shot. Cunningham did well to get a hand to it and deflect it away from goal, however Fabiano was following in and despite being tight to the end line he got a shot off that deflected away off the post to safety.

With just over 15 minutes left Westport United made the breakthrough with a fine goal, James McGrath collected the ball out on the right flank and he swept in a brilliant cross that went behind the Ballina backline and into the path of Cian McAllister who first time gracefully placed the ball to the back of the net.

Ballina had to come out and now and United had a lead to defend so for the next 20 odd minutes including injury time it was all Ballina pressure - but they failed to create many clear cut opportunities with a Lavelle header from a McKee corner the closest the came to pulling level.

United will go home happy - having pushed themselves three points clear at the top, but Ballina will know that they are still very much in this title hunt.

Ballina Town: E Payton; S Melvin, C Burke, O Feeney, D Helly; Fabiano; C Quinn, S Moyles, J Cawley; D McKee; B Lavelle. Subs: C Daly, J Doherty, T Duffy.

Westport United: G Cunningham; M O’Brien, J Lawless, C McGlade, M McDonagh; P Keegan, C O’Toole, J Murphy, C McAllister; D Browne; S Nallen. Subs: J McGrath, S Tagg.

Ref: D McGrath


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