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BetMcLean League Cup Final - Match Preview
Uploaded Friday, 15th Feb, 2019 at 13:06

BALLYMENA United travel to the National Stadium on Saturday evening to face Linfield in the final of the BetMcLean League Cup.
The sides have met 3 times so far this season, Linfield winning 2-1 at home in the league in September, United winning by the same scoreline at home in the league in December, and Linfield coming out on top in the semi-final of this seasons Toals Co Antrim Shield at the Showgrounds in January. Cathair Friel, who scored the opening goal in the Sky Blues win over Portadown in the Tennent's Irish Cup on Monday evening, scoring in all three games.
Latest results v Linfield:
Ballymena United 1-2 Linfield, Ballymena Showgrounds, 8th January 2019. (Toals Co Antrim Shield semi-final)
Ballymena United 2-1 Linfield, Ballymena Showgrounds, 1st December 2018. Att: 2319
Linfield 2-1 Ballymena United, National Stadium, 29th September 2018. Att: 2157
Linfield 2-0 Ballymena United, National Stadium, 7th April 2018. Att: 1455
Ballymena United 2-2 Linfield, Ballymena Showgrounds, 27th January 2018. Att: 1725
Ballymena United 2-1 Linfield, Ballymena Showgrounds, 20th November 2017. Att: 1921
Linfield 1-0 Ballymena United, National Stadium, 26th August 2017. Att: 1711
Path to the final - Linfield:
Round 2 - Linfield 8-0 Moyola Park (Goals: Andrew Waterworth (5), Michael O'Connor, Mark Stafford, Stephen Fallon)

Round 3 - Linfield 5-0 Institute (Goals: Niall Quinn (2), Andrew Waterworth (2), Kirk Millar)

Quarter-Final - Portadown 1-2 Linfield (Goals: Michael O'Connor, Jordan Stewart)

Semi-Final - Dungannon Swifts 0-0 Linfield (0-1 AET) (Goals: Andrew Waterworth)
Path to the final - Ballymena United:
Round 2 - Ballymena United 5-1 Dollingstown (Goals: Cathair Friel (2), Leroy Millar (2), Adam Lecky)

Round 3 - Ballymena United 1-0 Harland & Wolff Welders (Goals: Jude Winchester)

Quarter-Final - Ballymena United 1-0 Ards (Goals: Jude Winchester)

Semi-Final - Crusaders 0-1 Ballymena United (Goals: Leroy Millar)
Despite winning the League Cup a record 9 times, the Blues have failed to reach the final since 2008, when they lifted the cup with a 3-2 win over Crusaders.

At the weekend Linfield came from 2-0 behind to beat Coleraine 3-2 with a 90th minute strike from Kyle McClean, on loan from St Johnstone, hitting the back of the net to complete a remarkable comeback started by Josh Robinson and Niall Quinn.
Ballymena United:
The Sky Blues have reached the final of the League Cup 3 times over the past few years, losing 3-2 to Cliftonville in January 2015, winning the trophy for the first time in February 2017 with a 2-0 win over Carrick Rangers, before Dungannon Swifts captured the trophy by beating United 3-1 last February.

United ground out a 2-1 win over Institute at the Brandywell on Saturday afternoon, before beating Portadown 4-1 at the Showgrounds on Monday night in the sixth round of the Tennent's Irish Cup.
David Jeffrey's pre-match thoughts:
"This is our third consecutive League Cup Final appearance, that is no mean feat and players should be rightly praised for that. The previous journeys have been very testing. In short the first year we had a fantastic game against Carrick and it was a fantastic day that we celebrated as one. If anything that showed the family that Ballymena United is and the big thing that came out of that for me was how much everyone appreciated the victory.

The high of that then turned to a desperate low of the following year. We played Cliftonville a week beforehand, did phenomenally well, but as well prepared as we were, a week's turnaround was too quick. Mentally and emotionally on the day we weren't at it. We never intentionally go out to let our supporters down but we felt that day that we had, but our supporters still stood faithfully and applauded us at the end of the game - even in defeat there was appreciation and acknowledgement of the achievement of getting there.

There is now a burning desire to get back to the League Cup Final, simply so that the supporters can be proud of our performance. Whether that will be good enough to win we can only wait to see on the day, but what we want to do is to give a performance that is fitting of the supporters.

This season yet again they have been phenomenal in terms of the attendances and encouragement. No one is getting carried away, expectations are in check, everyone knows it's still baby strides and incremental steps. Having got here we want to make sure that we give of our best. One thing that myself and Bryan want to do is to give the town a club they are proud of.

Others talk about a 12th man, but we've said from the day and hour we walked in here that we can do nothing without our supporters - you are the people we are playing for. Come along and back us and be the best that you can be come Saturday."
A sea of Sky Blue:
As always, we'd love to see a large support decked out in Sky Blue on Saturday evening, so we have League Cup Final scarves, flags and bobble hats available from The Kiosk Newsagents, Ballymena Railway Station, until the Skyblue Express leaves for Belfast.

The above, and more, are also available from Stirling Trophies, Queen Street, Ballymena until 12 midday on Saturday.
Ballymena United fans transport:
Seven Towers Ballymena United Supporters Club bus leaves Henry Street Car Park at 4:00pm.

As of Thursday evening, there were under 20 tickets left for the special Skyblue Express organised between Ballymena United and Translink. For further details please click here - if you haven't got yours yet, don't miss out!
Match Tickets:
Match Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster outlets (e.g. Cameron's, Ballymena) or online at Ticketmaster. Please note if you buy online you'll have to print your own tickets or store them on your mobile device to gain entry to the match.
Match Officials:
Referee: Andrew Davey. Assistant 1: Stephen Bell. Assistant 2: Ken Ross. 4th Official: Steven Gregg.
Match Information:
All supporters MUST produce a ticket (physical or electronic) for admittance. Ballymena United supporters will enter via the Boucher Road, and will be housed in the North Stand only.

Anybody with a car park pass must be at the stadium prior to 4:00pm, when the turnstiles will be opened for admission to the match for spectators.

Kick off is 5:30pm.

Should the scores be level after 90 minutes, 2 x 15 minute periods of extra time will be played. If the scores are still level after the end of the extra time, the tie shall be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
Can Ballymena United claim the first major trophy of the season on Saturday afternoon, or will Linfield win the League Cup for the first time since 2008? Both sides have been on a good run of form going into this game, and it's expected to be a tight clash, although as well all know anything can happen in a cup final.

Grab your tickets and sky blue gear and be loud and proud in support of YOUR team - Come On Sky Blues!
Match Preview by Paul Irwin