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Saturday 31st October v. Larne (away) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Linfield MATCH REPORT

Uploaded Friday, 31st Jul, 2020 at 23:58

Date: Friday, 31st July, 2020; Competition: Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup - Final; Attendance: N/A;
Ballymena United [0] [1] AET 1
Glentoran [1] [1] AET 2
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 20:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Stephen Bell; Assistant 2: Paul Robinson; 4th Official: Shane Andrews;
Goals:
[0-1] O'NEILL, Paul (22 mins), [1-1] FRIEL, Cathair (48 mins), [1-2] McDAID, Robbie (115 mins)

BALLYMENA United suffered late cup heartache as they lost 2-1 to Glentoran, after extra-time, in an historic Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup final.
After both sides came through penalty shoot-out's on Monday they met in the first senior football match in the UK to be played in front of supporters, albeit socially distanced. United brought Leroy Millar and Andy McGrory into the starting XI from Monday, and after the sides entered using different stairwell's from makeshift changing rooms, a minutes applause was held again to say thank you to all NHS staff and key workers.
The Sky Blues came out of the blocks quickly and put the Glens on the back foot as they attacked towards the 250 strong and loud Sky Blue support. On 17 minutes McGrory sent Josh Kelly through, who had time to surge in on goal, but he opted to pass when the shooting chance was on and the chance was gone. Glentoran had offered nothing in the opening 20 minutes, but their bright spark was Navid Nasseri and he broke well before calling Ross Glendinning into a good stop, with the rebound put wide. The drinks break had came just prior to that chance, and it seemed to knock United out of their stride, a regular occurrence across the water in the Premier League.
On 22 minutes Glentoran broke the deadlock. Jim Ervin's headed clearance fell only as far as Paul O'Neill and he took the ball forward before placing a low effort out of the reach of Glendinning.
Ballymena responded well to falling behind against the run of play and a poor corner from Steven McCullough was almost advantageous as Cathair Friel flicked it goal-wards, forcing Elliott Morris to gather it on the line. At the other end Chris Gallacher ended a good piece of solo play by crossing for Nasseri, but his deft flick at the near post was kept out by Glendinning.
The Braidmen were dealt a blow just before the break when McGrory went down and couldn't continue, with Tony Kane replacing him. On the whistle Adam Lecky headed over from a Kane cross, with Ballymena counting themselves extremely unfortunate to be behind after a good showing.
United continued to impress at the start of the second half and within three minutes they were level. McCullough's delightful corner from the right was met by Friel at the near post, and his bullet header flew into the net to grab a well earned equaliser.
Bar O'Neill's goal the East Belfast side's forward line was quiet and when Rory Donnelly lined up a free kick in a good position, he could only strike well wide. After a disappointing first half, Friel was at it in the second and a typical Friel run, running at defenders before cutting inside, almost ended in a goal, only for Joe Crowe to block. The drinks break seemed to favour Glentoran again as it brought a halt to United's momentum and heading into the final ten minutes it was sustained pressure from Glentoran for the first time all evening. The pressure amounted to nothing much, except a booking for Donnelly for rather unsubtle simulation, as the first Irish Cup Final between the two for 69 years went to extra time.
After such a long lay off due to lockdown, a second game in five days to go 120 minutes wasn't ideal for either side and it told in extra time. Ballymena had a great opening two minutes into extra time from a free kick right on the edge of the box, but McCullough missed the target. From there Glentoran had most of the ball, as tiredness looked to have hit Ballymena more. Nasseri caught Ballymena on the counter and fed Robbie McDaid, his whipping low effort curling inches wide.
As the second half of extra time progressed, the nerves not felt in a stadium for almost five months had long crept in for both sets of supporters. And after Ballymena's late heartache in the Co. Antrim Shield final in January, it was a case of deja vu as Glentoran won it five minutes from penalties. Ciaran O'Connor charged forward and put a cross onto the penalty spot for McDaid who tucked the ball home.
Ballymena threw a couple of late balls into the Glens' box, but it was to no avail as the Braidmen had to settle for an undeserved defeat. Congratulations to Mick McDermott and Glentoran on lifting the trophy, but for United it was bitter disappointment, depsite a performance for fans in the ground, at the Showgrounds, and at home, to be proud of.
Next seasons fixtures have yet to be confirmed.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jonathan Addis ( Aaron Burns 116 120), Scot Whiteside, Cathair Friel ( Kenneth Kane 105), Steven McCullough, Andrew McGrory ( Tony Kane 37 Kofi Balmer), Jude Winchester ( James Knowles 60), Jim Ervin, Adam Lecky, Leroy Millar ( 98), Joshua Kelly.

Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Ryan Harpur.