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Saturday 26th January v. Ards (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Wednesday, 11th Oct, 2017 at 00:42

Date: Tuesday, 10th October, 2017; Competition: BetMcLean League Cup - Round 3; Attendance: N/A;
Ballymena United [0] [2]
Portadown [0] [0]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Lee Tavinder; Assistant 1: Kristian Hanna; Assistant 2: Gavin Hegarty; 4th Official: Declan Hassan;
[1-0] OWENS, Kyle (62 mins), [2-0] BRANIFF, Kevin (84 mins)

BALLYMENA United safely progressed to the BetMcLean League Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Portadown.
United started the brighter of the two and maintained control of play for the majority of the half against their Championship opponents. Despite being comfortable it took Ballymena until the 8th minute to work an effort on goal. A free kick from Fra McCaffrey was headed on by Johnny Flynn into the path of Kevin Braniff, but from close range his effort was well saved onto the bar by Ports 'keeper Chris McGaughey, denying Braniff a goal against his former employers.
5 minutes later it was Braniff's time to turn provider, as a neat turn allowed him to set up McCaffrey, who had his shot deflected over the away goal and onto the roof of the net. As Portadown continued to face United pressure, McGaughey was called into action again. After McCaffrey had a thundering shot blocked, the ball came back in to Braniff, who was able to tee up Gary Thompson, but his shot was stopped by McGaughey.
Just before the half hour mark The Sky Blues rattled the woodwork for a second time. The instrumental Braniff played the ball out to Andrew Burns on the right hand side. After a touch Burns rifled a shot which cannoned off the post before being cleared. Arguably the best chance of the lot fell to McKinney on 36 minutes. A long through ball from captain Jim Ervin set McKinney free, but one on one with McGaughey his shot was extremely tame and easily stopped.
In yet another chance for the home side Leroy Millar couldn't copy Saturday's free kick goal against Dungannon, this time his set piece whistled just past the post. In the final minutes of the half Ross Glendinning, who had been a virtual spectator, was called into his first piece of action. A foul on Kevin Amuneke by Flynn gave the visitors a free kick 25 odd yards out, and Neill's low free kick forced Glendinning to get down well to make the save, as the half somehow ended goalless.
The second half was much like the first, with most of the play happening in the Portadown half. The first chance fell to Millar. McKinney played in Millar but his shot deflected just wide. On 51 minutes Ports' 'keeper McGaughey was lucky not to be carded after handling the ball outside the box. Braniff took the resulting free kick but lifted it over the bar. Two minutes later Burns could've opened the scoring, but couldn't connect with a header on the far post from a corner.
A rare moment of panick in the Ballymena box saw Glendinning punch a corner into the middle of the box, but luckily it was a Sky Blue shirt who got to the ball first to clear it. With 61 minutes on the clock, Ballymena's dominance finally paid off as Kyle Owens broke the deadlock. McCaffrey kept the ball alive after a corner and gave it out to Burns, and his cross was met by Owens who powerfully headed home inside the box.
It could've been 2 five minutes later when McKinney did extremely well to hold off Francis Brennan and get a shot away, with McGaughey putting it behind for a corner. It proved to be the last meaningful chance in the game for 15 minutes with Ballymena's chances dying down as they looked to kill the game off.
With 9 minutes left Brennan did well to prevent a second goal. A dangerous ball to the back post from Burns just needed turning in by McKinney, but Brennan got there first to clear. In the 83rd minute the victory was all but wrapped up courtesy of a stunning Braniff free kick. From wide left and quite some distance out, Braniff took everyone by surprise and found the top left corner with a cross/shot that looped over McGaughey and in.
Ports substitute and ex- United man Peter Duffin could've snatched a clean sheet off Glendinning late on, but a fantastic last ditch Flynn tackle stopped Duffin getting a shot away. In added time The Sky Blue's hit the woodwork for a third time. Sub Conor McCloskey was fouled seemingly inside the box, but the referee opted for a free kick instead. From the free kick, Millar rattled the crossbar before Thompson set up Cathair Friel, but the substitute's goal - bound shot was blocked on the line by Matthew Hazley.
Despite the late chances, United recorded a comfortable 2-0 win as they kept the dream alive of back to back League Cup titles.
Ballymena United host Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday afternoon, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Author Name
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Kyle Owens, Johnny Flynn, Gary Thompson, Kevin Braniff, Andrew Burns ( Conor McCloskey 85), Jim Ervin, Steven McCullough ( 64), Leroy Millar, Fra McCaffrey ( Cathair Friel 65), Joe McKinney.

Subs not used: Conon Brennan, Tony Kane, Caolan Loughran.