By Paul Alexander
Crusaders have progressed to the semi-finals of the Tennent’s Irish Cup after comfortably beating Ballymena United at Seaview on Saturday afternoon in the quarter-finals of the competition.
The Hatchetmen had the first attempt of the tie seconds after the kick-off when Declan Caddell’s strike went just wide of the right post. David Cushley continued their push in the opening minutes, however Ross Glendinning collected his low shot at the bottom left corner of the Sky Blues’ goal.
Ballymena had an opportunity from a corner-kick on 19 minutes. Tony Kane delivered the set-piece from the left before Adam Lecky flicked the ball over the crossbar. The Crues went ahead through Jordan Forsythe two minutes later. The right wing-back recorded his first goal of this season’s competition, following Cushley’s pacey backheel across the six-yard box.
Crusaders crafted a two-goal cushion for themselves following an uncharacteristic mistake by Jonny Addis in the 24th minute. Cushley capitalised on Addis’ hurried pass towards Jim Ervin and chipped the ball into Jordan Owens. The 29-year-old striker then used the outside of his right boot to loop the ball over Glendinning.
With almost 30 minutes played the home side added a surprising third goal to extend their lead. Billy Joe Burns’ early cross, from just inside the Ballymena half, curled across from the right wing and into the left side of the goal. Inside the final ten minutes of the half, Stephen McCullough crossed for Leroy Millar who failed to make a proper connection for the Braidmen.
The second-half was significantly quieter than the first as the hosts were leading comfortably, whilst the visitors were lacking clear opportunities. After ten minutes of the closing period, United were given a free-kick which was directed over the bar by Kane.
On 57 minutes Ballymena goalkeeper Glendinning dived to his right to stop a promising volley from Crusaders’ Cushley. The forward also threatened in the closing minutes of the encounter with a shot from the right which was cushioned by Glendinning.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Ruddy, Ward, Coates, Burns, Forsythe, Lowry, Caddell, Rory Hale (K. Owens, 81), Cushley, J. Owens (Clarke, 80)
Subs not used: Doherty, Snoddy, McGinley, Patterson, Ronan Hale
Ballymena United: Glendinning, McCullough, Addis, Ervin, Whiteside, McGrory (McGinty, 67), Winchester (Faulkner, 17), Millar, Kane (Mayse, 75), Friel, Lecky
Subs not used: Williamson, Shevlin, Balmer, Watson
Referee: Ian McNabb (Coleraine)
In-Touch Man of the Match: David Cushley (Crusaders)
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