Ballymena United 1 - 2 Crusaders

County Antrim Shield - Semi-final
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007, 7:45 PM at Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 514
Referee: David Best (Carnmoney)
Ballymena United  Crusaders

Jonathan Flynn (63)
David Rainey (71)
David Rainey (81)

Team Managers
Tommy Wright
Stephen Baxter

Starting Eleven
Sean O'Neill
Albert Watson
Craig McClean
Jonathan Flynn
Simon Kelly
Aidan Watson
Garth Scates
Gary Haveron
Gavin Melaugh
Mark Picking
Kevin Kelbie
Gregg Shannon
David Magowan
Stephen McBride
Andrew Hunter
Eamon Doherty
Ryan Tumelty
Darren Lockhart
Steven Coulter
David Rainey
Chris Morrow

Paul Murphy
Stephen Lowry
Stuart King
Darren Fitzgerald
Randal Reid
Aaron Hogg
Martin Reilly
Eamon McAllister

Stuart King for Gary Haveron (70)
Randal Reid for Garth Scates (80)
Darren Fitzgerald for Craig McClean (84)
Caldwell for Hunter (20)
Reilly for Caldwell (62)
Eamon McAllister for Eamon Doherty (73)

None. None.

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Sean O'Neill (GK) 2 apps -
Simon Kelly 20 apps1 goal
Craig McClean 68 apps -
Albert Watson 182 apps6 goals
Jonathan Flynn 2 apps1 goal
Garth Scates 138 apps14 goals
Aidan Watson 67 apps3 goals
Gavin Melaugh 12 apps -
Gary Haveron 85 apps9 goals
Mark Picking 49 apps11 goals
Kevin Kelbie 74 apps34 goals
Stuart King (sub) 65 apps6 goals
Randal Reid (sub) 25 apps4 goals
Darren Fitzgerald (sub) 43 apps10 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Jonathan Flynn (17 years 323 days)
Oldest Player:Mark Picking (31 years 297 days)
Average Player Age:23 years 283 days
Domestic Players:10 (90.91 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Jonathan Flynn (17 years 323 days)
Oldest Player:Mark Picking (31 years 297 days)
Average Player Age:23 years 334 days
Domestic Players:14 (87.50 % of matchday squad)

BALLYMENA United crashed out of the County Antrim Shield, losing Wednesday night's semi-final clash with Crusaders.

Despite being a goal ahead going into the last twenty minutes, it will be Stephen Baxter’s Shore Road side that will face Glentoran in the Crest Teamwear Shield final at the end of the month.

After Saturday's dismal showing against Glentoran, manager Tommy Wright made four changes to the starting line-up bringing back Aidan Watson and Simon Kelly along with goalkeeper Sean O'Neill making his first start of the season, and defender Johnny Flynn making his full debut in central defence.

This semi-final was due to take place at New Grosvenor Park in Lisburn, however at the toss of a coin between the two managers, Ballymena United took the home advantage.

The Sky Blues started very positively, and with more urgency than shown in recent weeks. Simon Kelly had the first real chance ten minutes in, when his long range free-kick rattled the crossbar with Crusaders keeper, Gregg Shannon, well beaten.

Ballymena continued to attack, and it was Scottish striker Kevin Kelbie who came close when his snapshot from a long throw in, had to be cleared in a panic from the visiting defence.

On 13 minutes, Gary Haveron came agonisingly close to opening the scoring when his downward header from Craig McClean’s corner was just about cleared by Crues defender, Andy Hunter, standing on the goal-line.

Minutes later though, it was Hunter who was strechered off the pitch and taken from the ground in the back of an ambulance after he innocuously twisted and collapsed clutching his leg. This forced Baxter into a reshuffle of the defence with loanee Gary Smyth also absent through being cup-tied; Darren Lockhart was forced to fill that role.

The injury took the pace out of the game, and Crusaders managed to fight their way back into the game, as in stoppage time at the end of the half, David Rainey's shot forced Sean O'Neill to make a smart save.

Ballymena's only other chance of note in the first half came when the determined Mark Picking raced through the opposition defence, beating two men, before being hacked down outside the box. The normally reliable set-piece expert, Gary Haveron, fired the resulting free-kick well over the bar.

Crusaders came racing out the blocks in the second half, and Garth Scates had to be very aware to clear the danger from a corner early in the half.

In the 63rd minute, the Sky Blues took the lead, Craig McClean played a deep ball into a crowded box and as Kevin Kelbie's shot rattled off the far post, teenage defender Johnny Flynn fired home the rebound to send the home supporters into raptures.

The West Belfast youngster played in the Milk Cup in the summer as a makeshift striker for Northern Ireland, and celebrated his full debut for the Sky Blues with a goal.

Despite the home side being content to sit on their lead, it only lasted nine minutes. Craig McClean's poor backward header from a long punt by Gregg Shannon, and with the rest of his defence remaining static, it allowed David Rainey to break through and slide the ball past the helpless Sean O'Neill for the equaliser.

The same man broke United hearts in the 81st minute, when former Ballymena goalkeeper Gregg Shannon, lofted the ball forward, which left the Braid defence stranded as Rainey raced through to fire home his second goal of the game to win the tie for the Crues.

He almost got his hat-trick in the final minute, but just fired wide from distance, but his two goal haul was enough to fire the Seaview side into the final against Glentoran.

For United, it's another chance of silverware gone, as manager Tommy Wright ran the gauntlet of discontent at the final whistle.

"We were excellent in the first-half and really should have made more of the chances we had, but we hit the bar and had one cleared off the line.

"I won't walk away, some of the supporters might want to push me, but not the board. They're all disappointed, we're all working at this together, but if there comes a stage where they don't want me anymore, I can't do anything about that."

Match report written by Official Ballymena United website

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