4 - 3
League Cup (Semi final)
Declan Caddell (29)
Declan Caddell (66)
Gary McCutcheon (pen.) (70)
Jordan Owens (98)
David Cushley (24)
David Cushley (27)
David Cushley (45)
Tony Kane .2
Aaron Stewart .6
Allan Jenkins .10
David Cushley .11
Alan Davidson .4
Gary McCutcheon for Matthew Snoddy (46)
Paul Heatley for Nathan Hanley (46)
David McMaster for Eamon McAllister (103)
Michael Ruddy for Mark McCullagh (46)
Alan Davidson for Mark Surgenor (99)
Shane Dolan for Alan Teggart (101)
|Declan Caddell (62)||
David Cushley (47)
Gavin Taggart (53)
Gary Thompson (65)
Colin Burns (Referee)
AN EXTRA TIME header from Jordan Owens broke United's hearts and sent Crusaders through to a second successive North Belfast Derby League Cup final on a night of high drama at Seaview.
All connected with Ballymena United will have woken up on Wednesday morning utterly perplexed as to how their side contrived to throw away a 3-1 half time lead, missing out on a major final in the process.
The Sky Blues took the lead as early as the 24th minute; Tony Kane's cross was met with a bullet header from the unmarked David Cushley to get United off to the perfect start. The huge travelling support was in dreamland just three minutes later when Cushley again found the target, this time rifling past Sean O'Neill in the Crusaders goal after clever play by captain Allan Jenkins.
Ballymena's two goal advantage didn't last long as Declan Caddell fired past Dwayne Nelson to give the home side a glimmer of hope. The expected Crusaders onslaught didn't really materialise and it was in fact the visitors who struck next, the impressive David Cushley making the most of Sean O'Neill's hesitation to send his side seemingly to the brink of the League Cup final.
However, anyone versed in following Ballymena United will know it's never over until the fat lady sings, and so it proved on this occasion with Crusaders kicking off the second half in revitalised fashion. United could and should though have put the game to bed just after the hour mark when David Cushley was denied a stunning fourth goal only for the woodwork to come to the beaten Sean O'Neill's rescue.
This proved the decisive turning point, moments later substitute Gary McCutcheon's free kick was headed in by the unmarked Declan Caddell to bring the hosts right back into the game. Soon after, Tony Kane appeared to fell Paul Heatley in the box allowing former United hero Gary McCutcheon to step up and level the scores much to Ballymena's dismay.
There was to be no further scoring in normal time with Paul Leeman going closest for the hosts with a thumping header against the crossbar, before Alan Teggert had a late chance to win the game for United but shot well wide of the frame of the goal.
The decisive goal came midway through the first period of extra time, Jordan Owens found himself unmarked in the box and rose to head home a corner which had been carelessly conceded by United. There was to be one further moment of controversy as David Cushley rushed through on goal with seconds remaining before being bundled over by Sean O'Neill in what looked like a penalty kick and sending off for the Crusaders goalkeeper. Much to the fury of the United fans behind the goal, referee Colin Burns waved play on denying United a much coveted place in the NIFL League Cup final and in the process ensuring Crusaders make it three final appearances in a row.
United will hope Crusaders already have one eye on the final against their fierce rivals Cliftonville when the two sides meet again on Saturday (3pm) this time at the Showgrounds for a vital league clash.
Match report written by Jordan Miller
|Dwayne Nelson (GK)||29||17||-||175||-|
|Michael Ruddy (sub)||20||17||1||38||1|
|Alan Davidson (sub)||25||13||-||51||8|
|Shane Dolan (sub)||25||17||4||30||7|
* - Table split into two divisions of six.