Crues and Blues to contest Shield decider
Ballymena United 1-2 Linfield
By Paul Alexander
Linfield secured a 2-1 victory over Ballymena United on Tuesday evening at Ballymena Showgrounds with Andrew Waterworth’s brace meaning they will take on Crusaders in the Toals County Antrim Shield Final.
It took seven of the opening 45 minutes for the first significant chance of the match to arrive. Ryan Mayse connected with a ball from the left wing but his volley was in the eyeline of Roy Carroll who was able to hold.
Opportunities remained limited as the half advanced. The away side almost pulled ahead in the 24th minute. Josh Robinson nodded Niall Quinn’s corner-kick from the right at goal however Tony Kane, who was Ballymena captain on the night, headed clear on the goal-line.
Though Linfield did go in front with just under a third of the encounter played when the Blues broke with pace through Jordan Stewart. The 23-year-old switched the ball to Quinn on the left side of the 18-yard box. Quinn furthered the ball inward to Stephen Fallon who assisted Andrew Waterworth for the first goal.
United had the opening for an equaliser with a free-kick before the break but James Knowles curled the central set-piece over from 25 yards.
The Belfast visitors were first to threaten in the second period when Kirk Millar headed wide at the back post from a left wing ball. Waterworth then notched his second goal of the evening on 59 minutes. Prior to it, Stewart’s shot from close range was palmed out by Ross Glendinning before Waterworth finished from the rebound.
David Jeffrey’s side tried to produce a response after a period of three minutes. Mayse provided Matthew Shevlin with the ball on the left but Chirs Casement slid in front of the striker’s low shot.
The Braidmen did respond on 77 minutes to raise the prospect of 20 minutes of extra-time in the shield fixture. Cathair Friel, who was one of two Sky Blue changes in the 64th minute, scored after Willie Faulkner’s cross from the right at the byline.
It was David Healy’s side who came closest to netting a fourth goal in the game when Casement’s strike across goal clipped the outside of the left post on 83 minutes.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Quigley, Addis, Balmer, Whiteside, Kane, Faulkner (McGinty, 83), Harpur, Knowles, Shevlin (McMurray, 64), Mayse (Friel, 64)
Subs not used: McCullough, Ervin
Linfield: Carroll, Quinn, Robinson, Callacher, Casement, Millar, Fallon, Mulgrew, Stewart (Mitchell, 86), Waterworth, Cooper (Clarke, 86)
Subs not used: Deane, O’Connor, Kearns
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Andrew Waterworth (Linfield)
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