United draw with Rangers XI in Nelson testimonial

Dwayne Nelson receives a memento marking his testimonial match from Rangers under-20 manager Ian Durrant.
Dwayne Nelson receives a memento marking his testimonial match from Rangers under-20 manager Ian Durrant.

Ballymena United produced a battling performance to draw 1-1 with a Glasgow Rangers XI in goalkeeper Dwayne Nelson’s testimonial.

The sides produced an entertaining pre-season fixture, played in front of a bumper Showgrounds crowd who gave Nelson a standing ovation when he was substituted near the end.

The 30-year-old had been given a guard of honour by both teams as he took to the pitch before the game with his two children.

And when the action started, Nelson was called into action early on as he acrobatically tipped Rangers skipper Ross McCrorie’s header from a Ross Lyon corner over the crossbar.

At the other end, Eoin Kane - one of four youngsters promoted from the reserves to the first team squad by Glenn Ferguson for this season - warmed Rangers keeper Rob McCrorie’s palms with a 25-yard shot.

United went in front on 12 minutes when skipper Allan Jenkins dispossessed a defender and bore down on goal before unselfishly squaring for last season’s top scorer Matthew Tipton to roll the ball home from 12 yards.

Kane was again involved when he burst onto a loose ball but just as he was about to pull the trigger from the edge of the area, he was denied by a perfectly-timed sliding tackle from Ross McCrorie.

Ballymena suffered a blow when Tipton had to limp off with an injury with less than half an hour played as United held on to their advantage until the interval.

At the break manager Glenn Ferguson rung the changes, with no fewer than nine players introduced, in order to give players essential game time.

One of them, Mark Magennis forced keeper McCrorie into a save in the opening minutes but Rangers gradually began to force their way into the game and levelled on 64 minutes when Josh Jeffries, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes, fired home after Nelson had beaten out Andy Murdoch’s shot.

The visitors attempted to turn the screw with Dylan Dykes forcing Nelson into a fine save with a piledriver of a shot, while teenagers Leroy Millar and Matthew Shevlin had chances to win it for Ballymena.

But the game finished in a stalemate with both teams given a rapturous ovation at the final whistle.