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Millar Winner Puts Braidmen Into Final

Crusaders 0-1 Ballymena United

By Paul Alexander

Ballymena United entered the BetMcLean League Cup final on Tuesday evening after Leroy Millar scored the only goal in a fine 1-0 semi-final victory at Seaview.

Noteworthy goal scoring opportunities were a rarity inside the opening 20 minutes of the encounter. United’s James Knowles had a free-kick tipped over by Harry Doherty shortly after the kick-off.

Fellow midfielder Jude Winchester didn’t effectively connect with the ball which meant his attempt trundled wide, before Steven McCullough also sent it well wide of the target with the outside of his left boot.

Within the 22nd minute the home side had the first significant chance when Jordan Forsythe’s shot was held by Thomas McDermott, after Philip Lowry initially challenged the Ballymena goalkeeper for a high ball.

McDermott then cushioned a shot from distance by Ross Clarke prior to the Sky Blues threatening to score. Cathair Friel looped the ball over into the penalty area but Millar’s effort was blocked by Doherty.

With just over half an hour played McCullough’s half-volley came close to dipping into the net. The Crues front two teamed up with David Cushley supplying Clarke who pulled wide of goal.

Crusaders keeper Doherty made three important stops in the minutes leading to the end of the half. He palmed away Millar’s grounded shot and held onto Friel’s effort, after an exchange between Knowles and Tony Kane on the right wing. Doherty then sprung to help a Friel header behind following an early ball from Kane.

The second period, too, lacked substantial openings for both teams. Although McCullough’s curling free-kick from the right wing pressured Doherty into a one-handed save. After 68 minutes the Braidmen went ahead when Friel nodded the ball into the path of Millar, who would score to become Ballymena’s leading scorer in the competition.

The north Belfast hosts had the ball over the goal line, however no goal was given as Gary Thompson had fouled McDermott before Cushley finished. Friel tried to end the contest in the first of four stoppage time minutes, as David Jeffrey’s side protected their advantage, but his shot across goal went wide.

Crusaders: Doherty, Ruddy (Heatley, 76), Brown, Beverland, Ward, B.J. Burns, Forsythe, Lowry, Thompson (Caddell, 74), Clarke, Cushley (Owens, 88)

Subs not used: O’Neill, Carvill, Holden, Snoddy

Ballymena United: McDermott, McCullough, Addis, Ervin, Balmer, Kane, Winchester (Mayse, 79), Millar, Knowles, Friel, Lecky (A. Burns, 91)

Subs not used: McCauley, Nolan, Shevlin, McMurray

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)

In-Touch Man of the Match: Leroy Millar (Ballymena)

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