|Uploaded Monday, 27th Jul, 2020 at 23:41|
|Date: Monday, 27th July, 2020; Competition: Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup - Semi-Final; Attendance: N/A;|
|Ballymena United||||||AET 1 Pens 3|
|Coleraine||||||AET 1 Pens 1|
|Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 16:00;|
|Referee: Keith Kennedy; Assistant 1: Gareth Eakin; Assistant 2: David Anderson; 4th Official: Evan Boyce;|
|[0-1]BRADLEY, Eoin (45 mins), [1-1]KANE, Kenneth (90 mins)|
|BALLYMENA United's long wait for a return to football was well worth it as they made the Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Final with a win over Coleraine on Monday afternoon.|
It had been one hundred and forty two days since United's last match, coincidently against Coleraine, before the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world, and football, to a standstill. With the pandemic still ongoing the match was played in surreal conditions behind closed doors, with the BBC bringing the action to living room's throughout Northern Ireland.
Prior to kick-off a minute's applause was held to thank the NHS and key workers who have worked and saved lives during the crisis.
As was to be expected, the game wasn't exactly a classic right from the off. The Sky Blues had the first effort 6 minutes in courtesy of an Anthony Kane free kick, but it was drilled well wide. There was a huge scare for Ballymena a few minutes later when Bannsider's skipper Stephen O'Donnell headed home a free kick completely unmarked, but the offside flag thankfully went up.
Ross Glendinning had claims to be Ballymena's Man of the Match and he pulled off a top save to keep out Eoin Bradley, after he'd peeled off to the back post to get a header away. On 23 minutes play was stopped for what was surely the first ever drinks break in Northern Irish football history, keeping in line with those seen in England.
From the break onwards there was little from either side to get supporters off their sofa's despite Coleraine looking the more dangerous against a United side struggling to get going. The best evidence of this came when Adam Lecky and Cathair Friel linked up well for the first time all game, only for Friel's presumed cross to trickle its way to the feet of Chris Johns.
Kane had another go from a free kick, this time getting it on target but causing Johns no issues, and in added time in the first half Coleraine hit the Braidmen with a sucker punch as they took the lead. Jonny Addis was booked for fouling Bradley on the edge of the box and it was Bradley who stepped up and sent a fine free kick past Glendinning who had no chance.
If Ballymena were going to book a place in Friday's showpiece final they had to show a lot more going forward, and after 7 quiet minutes to open the second half David Jeffrey, on the touchline after winning his appeal against his suspension, made a triple change with James Knowles, Andy McGrory and Leroy Millar in place of Ryan Harpur, Tony Kane and Jude Winchester.
Captain Jim Ervin had missed the six weeks prior to lockdown through injury, and finally back on the pitch he showed what United had missed with a timely block to keep out the dangerous Jamie Glackin. With 57 minutes gone, Coleraine could've and maybe should've made it 2-0. Josh Carson's low ball found Ben Doherty who turned it goalwards from close range, but could only hit the post. With Coleraine firmly in control Carson played in Glackin but Glendinning impressively came out of his box to thump the ball away with his head, being caught by Glackin for his efforts.
|Just like the first half, the drinks break did little to help the game with next to nothing happening after it, with both sides visibly tiring after over a four month lay off.|
|Bradley almost settled it with a second free kick on 80 minutes, this time his attempt crashing off the post. With Coleraine happy to see out a 1-0 win and Ballymena doing little to worry them, Kenny Kane and Aaron Burns were called upon in the dying embers, as the manager made use of the extra subs on offer.|
It turned out to be a master stroke as they played a part in a 94th minute equaliser. In what was in truth Ballymena's only piece of real quality in the second half, McGrory's delightful first time cross to the back post was headed back across goal by Burns, and after being turned goalwards by Millar, Kane was in the right place to tap home the leveller.
Before United fans could've sat themselves back down again James McLaughlin let fly from distance, with Glendinning pulling off a stunning save to take it to extra time.
Extra time was probably the last thing either set of players wanted after such a long lay off, but Coleraine had the ball in the net again 4 minutes in when McLaughlin got on the end of a Stephen Lowry ball, but it was also flagged for offside. The TV replays suggested United were a little fortunate to the see the flag go up.
|Ballymena were probably on top throughout extra time, looking considerably fitter than their counterparts who had visibly dropped off. In the second half of extra time neither side had an effort of goal, despite some inviting crosses from Ballymena's wide men. Both sides seemed set on penalties and that was the case, even with the joys of watching from home meaning it looked like 10 extra minutes had been played due to the incorrect time on the TV graphics.|
|To penalties it went, in front of an empty Railway stand, and after captain Ervin missed the first spot kick, McGrory and Knowles scored in amongst misses from Lowry and Bradley. Steven McCullough, suspended for the game until yesterday, scored putting the pressure on Doherty, and he sent his penalty into row Z to send Ballymena players, staff and supporters at home mad as Ballymena booked their place in a first Irish Cup Final for 6 years.|
|Ballymena United will be at the National Stadium at Windsor Park on Friday evening for the Sadler's Peaky Blinder final against Glentoran, kicking off at 8:00pm.|
|Match Report by Phillip McPeake|
|Ballymena United Team:|
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane ( Andrew McGrory 52), Jonathan Addis ( 44 Kenneth Kane 87), Scot Whiteside, Ryan Harpur ( James Knowles 52), Cathair Friel ( Aaron Burns 87), Steven McCullough ( 20), Jude Winchester ( Leroy Millar 52 80), Jim Ervin, Adam Lecky ( 37), Joshua Kelly.
Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Kofi Balmer.
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