Ballinamallard Utd 1 Limavady Utd 1

Ballinamallard United crashed out of the North West Cup at the first hurdle, losing on penalties to Limavady after a 1-1 draw.

The Mallards were looking to defend the trophy they won last season, but they never looked like reaching the heights of that cup run as they struggled to impose themselves on their lower league opponents.

“It was hugely disappointing,” admitted manager Harry McConkey.

“You get your first competitive game and you expect everybody to be hungry for it, but in the first 25 minutes we were very flat.

“We looked vulnerable on the counter-attack and we were far too open.

“I just thought there was a lack of quality in our play. We got to grips with it a bit better towards half time without creating a whole lot and that has been a problem for a while now.

“ We are not a big enough threat on goal given the players we have out on the park there.

“As brave as Limavady were, we were our own biggest opponents by not taking care of the ball consistently well, and not being clinical enough in front of goal.

“On possession and chances created we maybe did shade it, but they were dogged and they battled hard. Clearly there is competition for places and people need to start performing. “

Limavady won only two league games last season as they struggled in the Premier Intermediate division, one tier below Ballinamallard, but they showed no lack of confidence as they started strongly, forcing John Connolly to save with his feet after ten minutes.

Darragh McBrien looked the most threatening of the Ballinamallard players and he fired into the side netting, while Joshua McIlwaine had a header from a corner cleared off the line just before the half time break.

Early in the second half Jason McCartney rattled the cross bar from a free kick and Darragh Byrne volleyed a cross over the bar as the Mallards begun brightly after the re-start.

McBrien then forced the keeper into a save with his feet, but after an hour it was Limavady who took the lead when the impressive Dean Brown curled in a shot from the corner of the penalty area.

Their lead lasted only one minute, however, with Ballinamallard putting together a good move to draw level.

Matthew Buchanan fed a through ball for John Edgar, and he spurned the shot to square for Darragh McBrien who rolled the ball in from ten yards.

Neither side could add to the score before the end of extra time, and although John Connolly saved one of the spot kicks in the shoot-out, misses from Chris Kelly and Ryan Campbell spelt the end of Ballinamallard’s North West Cup challenge for this season.

The game had come after another promising pre-season performance earlier in the week against Crusaders.

In a repeat of the 2019 Irish Cup final the Mallards gave the Crues a stern test, going down 2-0 after goals from Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke.

Ballinamallard will return to pre-season action on Thursday evening when they travel to Midgeley Park to take on Linfield.