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Tuesday 17th July v. Knockbreda (away) - Friendly - k.o: 7:30pm

Uploaded Tuesday, 23rd Jan, 2018 at 23:27

Date: Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018; Competition: Toals Co Antrim Shield - Final; Attendance: N/A;
Ballymena United [0] [2]
Crusaders [3] [4]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Andrew Davey; Assistant 1: Neill Gillespie; Assistant 2: Mark O'Brien; 4th Official: Raymond Crangle;
Goals:
[0-1] BEVERLAND, Howard (9 mins), [0-2] OWENS, Jordan (10 mins), [0-3] CADDELL, Declan (23 mins), [1-3] McMURRAY, Johnny (56 mins), [1-4] HEATLEY, Paul (69 mins), [2-4] FRIEL, Cathair(85 mins)

BALLYMENA United lost out to Crusaders in the Toals Co Antrim Shield final at the Showgrounds tonight with a below par performance.
The "home" stand was packed with Sky Blues
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Ballymena started the final the better of the two teams at their home ground, going close inside the opening 2 minutes. A free kick from Tony Kane just missed Kofi Balmer at the back post before going wide.
Crusaders first chance came on 9 minutes and resulted in a goal. A corner was allowed to bounce too many times in the Ballymena box and from close range defender Howard Beverland was able to stab the ball home. Less than two minutes later it was 2-0 to the league leaders after yet more suspect United defending. Matthew Shevlin failed to pull off a back heel near Ballymena's own box and instead it fell straight to Paul Heatley, who in turn found a completely unmarked Jordan Owens at the back post. Owens calmly slotted the ball past Ross Glendinning to double The Crues advantage.
The goals left The Sky Blues stunned and it could've been three on 16 minutes. Heatley found Beverland with a free kick and he headed narrowly wide with Glendinning beaten. It would however be 3-0 six minutes later. Johnny McMurray stuck a short free kick routine from all of 30 yards just wide at one end, and seconds later at the other Heatley too easily shrugged Balmer off the ball and Declan Caddell was on hand to half volley the knockdown past Glendinning.
With the Crusaders front line adding to Ballymena's own problems at the back Jordan Owens had the ball in the back of the net from a free kick, only for it to be ruled offside. From nowhere Ballymena should've but didn't claw one back. A long throw from Kane was flicked on by Kyle Owens to a totally unmarked Kevin Braniff, but from 6 yards out he fluffed his lines and skied over.
Heatley was continuing to cause problems and after finding Caddell on the edge of the box, Caddell's shot dipped just over. United's first attempt on target was through McMurray after good hold up play from Braniff, but Brian Jensen wasn't overly troubled by the low shot. In the final play of the half Steven McCullough cleared a corner as far as Matthew Snoddy, and his long range effort was destined for the top corner till Glendinning made a spectacular one handed save.
Crusaders picked up where they left off at the start of the second half. From the edge of the box Philip Lowry forced a good save from Glendinning. Owens turned in the rebound but again saw it chalked off for offside. Glendinning was called into action again when Heatley turned Owens and got a low shot away, but Glendinning was equal to it.
On 55 minutes Ballymena managed to set up an interesting final half hour as McMurray pulled a goal back. The striker played a nice one two with Owens inside the box before slotting home past Jensen. The goal injected life into The Braidmen and 10 minutes later Braniff missed a golden chance for 3-2. A long ball from Balmer sent Braniff racing clear one on one, but Jensen came out on top, making himself big to save with United fans left wondering what might have been.
Just 3 minutes after that chance Crusaders made Ballymena pay with a game ending fourth goal. Jordan Owens got the better of brother Kyle before Gavin Whyte found Heatley, who comfortably slotted home.
On 74 minutes Ballymena missed 3 straight chances to get back within two. The ball dropped in the box for Kane who made Jensen work, Willie Faulkner's rebound was blocked by Jordan Owens, before Kyle Owens headed agonisingly wide. Cathair Friel came off the bench to make his return from injury and with 5 minutes left marked his comeback with a goal. Sean Ward headed a back pass straight over the head of Jensen which left Friel an empty goal to easily find to make it 4-2.
With 2 minutes to go sub David Cushley needlessly left United sub Conor McCloskey on the stock car track, sparking an angry response from McCloskey, going out of his way to shove Cushley, resulting in a minor scuffle and bookings for both. The incident rather summing up Ballymena's frustrating night with Crusaders leaving with the silverware as Ballymena were left to rue a costly opening half hour.
Next up for United is the mammoth task of hosting Linfield in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday afternoon, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Kyle Owens, Stephen McAlorum, Kevin Braniff, Willie Faulkner ( Joe McKinney 76), Matthew Shevlin ( Conor McCloskey 83 88), Kofi Balmer, Jim Ervin ( 29), Steven McCullough, Johnny McMurray ( Cathair Friel 76).

Subs not used: Emmet Friars, Fra McCaffrey.