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Uploaded Saturday, 4th Mar, 2023 at 20:29

Date: Saturday, 4th March, 2023; Competition: Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup - Quarter-Final; Attendance: N/A;
Ballyclare Comrades [1] [1] AET 1
Ballymena United [0] [1] AET 3
Venue: Dixon Park; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: John Doherty; Assistant 2: Brian Wilson; 4th Official: Steven Gregg;
Goals:
[1-0] McGUINNESS, Caomhan (37 mins), [1-1] KELLY, Joshua (64 mins), [1-2] McGRORY, Andrew (pen 98 mins), [1-3] McDAID, David (115 mins)

BALLYMENA United have progressed to their fourth consecutive Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final after squeezing past Lough 41 Championship side Ballyclare 3-1 after extra-time at Dixon Park on Saturday.
Ahead of the first competitive meeting between United and neighbours Ballyclare in four and a half years, David Jeffrey made one enforced change from last Saturday's draw with Crusaders, as injury saw Douglas Wilson drop out for Craig Farquhar, marking the youngsters first start for the club.
With the Comrades in good form in the league and Ballymena misfiring, this was always going to be a tricky tie to navigate and that was evident from the off. Despite a cagey start from both sides, the visitors felt they had huge claims for an early penalty when Howard Beverland had a lengthy hold of David McDaid's midriff inside the box, but referee Tim Marshall was uninterested in the appeals.
On eighteen minutes came the first chance for either team. It came from fine, assured play from Farquhar who showed great composure on the ball before picking out McDaid with a piercing long ball, but the striker was thwarted by a near post save from Declan Breen. After that, bar Scot Whiteside heading wide off a corner, the hosts began to put a lacklustre Skies under a bit of pressure, and after Kym Nelson had made a vital clearance from a ball across goal and Liam Hassin fired wide following poor defending, on thirty-five minutes the second tier side took the lead. The goal came really out of nowhere as Ballyclare attacked down the right, but as Joe Tully found Caomhan McGuinness on the overlap, the full back took everyone by surprise by rifling the ball goalwards instead of crossing from just inside the box, and his effort flew into the top corner past Jordan Williamson who stood no chance.
Perhaps falling behind was what United needed to waken up a bit, and as they finished the half strongly they somehow didn't go into the break back on the level terms. After Robert McVarnock struck straight at Breen, McDaid almost levelled spectacularly when he had a go from all of thirty yards, with his dipping shot forcing Breen into a wonder save onto the crossbar and over. With virtually the last play of the half it should've been 1-1 when a delightful through ball from McDaid put his strike partner Kenneth Kane in one on one, but somehow he scuffed his shot wide, leaving Ballymena a half away from a shock exit.
After a poor first half, the Braidmen finally began to get a grip on proceedings as the second half progressed. Early on they were almost level when Nelson met a corner before an almighty bit of pinball didn't fall United's way, allowing the hosts to eventually clear. Further good chances came and went via the head of Kane and boot of Sean Graham, after he and McDaid had exchanged a tidy one two, but it was all one-way traffic as Ballyclare failed to threaten Williamson.
Finally, twenty minutes into the half, Ballymena got themselves deservedly back on level terms, thanks to the skipper Joshua Kelly, who had really taken control of the second half. Graham brought United up the pitch by bursting into space down the middle, before feeding Steven McCullough on the left, whose low ball into the box was guided into the far corner by Kelly, in front of a more than supportive away end.
Back level and in the ascendancy, Ballymena would've hoped to really take the tie to the home side, but they failed to really build on their stronghold, with the hosts no doubt pleased to get themselves back in the game. McCullough sent a free kick over the bar in what was really the only chance for either team, but as the tie looked destined for extra-time, the Sky Blues were given the chance to win it from the spot two minutes from time. As McCullough cut inside in the box, he was brought down by a sliding McGuinness, giving McDaid the chance to send United through with late drama, but there was despair as he saw his low spot kick well saved by Breen, leading it into extra-time.
Nelson and McVarnock were replaced by Ross Redman and Andrew McGrory for extra-time, and with it important for Sky Blue heads not to drop after the late disappointment, eight minutes in they had another bite at the cherry to go ahead, again from the spot. This time, McDaid was bundled down in the box by sub Ian Fletcher, but it was McGrory on duty for this one, and he didn't let Ballyclare off twice as he fired down the middle to put United in front.
Kane almost made sure of things when he was played in by Graham, but he ran the ball into Breen as he tried to round him, before McDaid was denied by the 'keeper again.
Kelly was replaced by Jordan Gibson for the second period of extra time, bringing to an end a fine display from the captain. The second half was rather eventless, which was fine for the away side who were seeing things out professionally, but with five minutes to go the travelling support could finally relax as McDaid booked their semi-final spot. Ballymena cleared their lines from a long Ballyclare throw and after McDaid brilliantly controlled the clearance on halfway, he turned and headed for goal, finishing as composed as ever into the corner.
Ballymena were made to work extremely hard for the win by an expectedly tough opponent, but it was a result well ground out in the end for the Sky Blues, who now have a semi-final against rivals Larne to look forward to in four weeks' time.
Ballymena United travel to the Ballycastle Road on Tuesday evening to face derby rivals Coleraine in the Danske Bank Premiership, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Jordan Williamson, Kym Nelson ( Ross Redman 90), Scot Whiteside, David McDaid, Joshua Kelly ( Jordan Gibson 106), Steven McCullough, Kenneth Kane, Jack Henderson, Robert McVarnock ( Andrew McGrory 91), Sean Graham, Craig Farquhar.

Subs not used: Ryan Waide, George Tipton, Michael Place, Nathan Clarke.