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Sky's the limit for Matthew Shevlin says Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson

Ballymena Utd 6-1 Cliftonville

By Billy Weir

Published 14/09/2015

Key moment: Cliftonville keeper Peter Burke saw red for this challenge on Matthew Shevlin
Key moment: Cliftonville keeper Peter Burke saw red for this challenge on Matthew Shevlin

It is fitting that Ballymena United's striking starlet Matthew Shevlin is on trial at Crystal Palace this week after a sparkling display fit for a king on Saturday.

The 16-year-old had a hand in almost all of the Sky Blues' six goals in their remarkable win over a simply shocking Cliftonville, who had no answer to Shevlin.

The only way to stop the Eagle in waiting was illegally - three times he was tumbled in the box and all three penalties were duly dispatched by strike partner, Matthew Tipton.

David Cushley, Michael Ruddy and Jim Ervin also cashed in on defender Eamonn Seydak's unhappy stint in goal for the Reds after keeper Peter Burke was red-carded ahead of the second of Tipton's spot-kicks.

He was helpless to prevent the resurgent Sky Blues, some of whose fans were calling for Glenn Ferguson's head a couple of weeks ago, and now with three wins on the bounce they'll be calling for him to be manager of the month.

"The game has changed and I was a different kind of striker than Matthew but we both wanted to score goals," explained Ferguson.

"If a young player has a knack of scoring goals and the work ethic is right he can go all the way to the top, there's no doubt about that.

"What we like about him is that he never gives defenders or goalkeepers a moment's peace and nobody wants that.

"Outside of some really top class defenders they're not really good footballers so if you put them under pressure when they have the ball at their feet they panic, so when you've got a 16-year-old boy with pace who wants to score goals closing you down, it's desperately hard.

"And when he's playing with a 35-year-old with experience, who can hold the ball well and play him in, it certainly helps. I did it with Peter Thompson. When Peter came through I was a bit older and it worked for us and it's working now for Matthew and Matthew."

As for the Reds, what happens next is a mystery with shell-shocked boss Tommy Breslin refusing to talk to reporters on Saturday and it was left to coach Peter Murray to drop the bombshell that they may walk away.

That would be criminal. Yes, they must shoulder some of the blame for the defeat but the players owe them so much more than the pathetic second-half display they put on at Warden Street.

"If you lose the changing room you are finished and that's the name of the game because Cliftonville Football Club is a lot bigger than Tommy Breslin and Peter Murray," said Murray.

"If that is the case, Tommy is an honest man and he would leave Cliftonville to make sure someone would come in and do a better job.

"We had a heart to heart and it wasn't nice because after games like that it's a bit raw but we're here to win league titles and it's a results business. That's not acceptable. If the chairman came to us and said you have to go, we'd have to take it because it's not acceptable.

"We have to look forward, we can't look back and maybe that's an issue with some of the players who are resting on past glories. It's all about what we do next week and that's the bottom line."

BALLYMENA: Nelson, T Kane, Ruddy (McVey, 82 mins), Ervin, Taylor, E Kane, Faulkner (Thompson, 81 mins), Jenkins, Shevlin, Tipton (Henderson, 86 mins), Cushley. Unused subs: Ferguson, Magennis.

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, McGovern, Seydak, Bonner, Flynn, McMullan (C Murray, 59 mins) Curran (M Murray, 82 mins), Catney, McDaid, Garrett, J Donnelly. Unused subs: Winchester, Brennan, M Donnelly.

Man of the match: Matthew Shevlin

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)

Belfast Telegraph

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