Tuesday 3rd October v. Lisburn Distillery (home) - BetMcLean League Cup rd1 - k.o: 7:45pm

Lisburn Distillery Match Preview
Uploaded Friday, 31st Mar, 2023 at 22:48

Date: Friday, 31st March, 2023; Competition: Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup - Semi-Final; Attendance: N/A;
Larne [0] [0]
Ballymena United [0] [2]
Venue: Seaview; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Jamie Robinson; Assistant 1: Adam Jeffrey; Assistant 2: John Doherty; 4th Official: Lee Tavinder;
[0-1] FARQUHAR, Craig (69 mins), [0-2] WILSON, Douglas (83 mins)

BALLYMENA United are into their second straight Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup final after a sensational 2-0 victory over Larne in their semi-final at Seaview on a Friday night to remember.
Two weeks on from United's last outing, coincidentally a defeat to Larne in the league, there was five changes to David Jeffrey's starting side, the most noteworthy a return from injury for Sean O'Neill in the nick of time to replace the suspended Jordan Williamson in goals.
As Ballymena went in search of an incredible third final appearance in four years, the task in hand couldn't have been more difficult as a struggling United faced a high-flying Larne, but the Braidmen started the derby well in front of a bumper crowd. Robert McVarnock, sensational all evening, won the ball high up the pitch to set up Ballymena's first shot, but David McDaid skewed wide from distance, but it already marked more shots in the game than United had managed a fortnight ago. As Larne began to get to grips with the tie, they weren't getting particularly far, as half chances came and went for Lee Bonis and Andy Ryan, before O'Neill had to be alert to get down and save after Steven McCullough inadvertently flicked the ball towards his own goal.
By the half hour mark there was nothing to split the sides as Ballymena more than held their own, before an enormous chance fell the Sky Blues' way. Fuad Sule put the ball into the path of Ross Redman down the left and he charged forward before crossing for Sean Graham, but his header pulled a remarkable save out of Rohan Ferguson to tip it round the post and no more.
The Braidmen were finishing the half strongly and shortly after Graham's chance, buoyed on by a crowd in fine voice, another good chance came up dry. A cross was nodded down by a fantastic Jordan Gibson into the path of McDaid just inside the box, but with a bit of space he scuffed his effort wide, as a tightly contested half ended level.
Given recent performances and results, the first half showing will have surprised many watching on, but if they were concerned about whether United could keep it up in the second half, they needn't have been worried. Much like the first half, the start to the second was scrappy, but Ballymena continued to be first to nearly every ball as Larne were stopped at source time and time again.
On fifty-five minutes came the games first card when another wayward Larne pass went for a throw in before Ferguson could get to it, with the 'keeper proceeding to pick the ball up and carry it to his goalmouth to prevent a quick Ballymena throw in a good position.
With the encounter passing the hour mark the Invermen were beginning to see more of the ball, but yet again weren't getting far with it. Ryan blazed over from distance before a Graham Kelly cross whistled wide of the far post by millimeters, but the arriving Bonis was offside anyway as he stretched for the ball.
Sean Graham was playing a key role in the business Ballymena were doing in the Larne half, and after he had skied a shot over from well out, he saw huge penalty appeals waved away when he tried to bring a long ball down in the box, but instead the ball seemed to strike a Larne hand after Graham's touch got away from him.
On seventy minutes, and barely more than a minute after substitute Joe Thompson had forced a good stop out of O'Neill, United stunned their full-time opponents by opening the scoring with a deserved goal. Great work by Graham and Redman won United a corner, and the latter's delivery was met by a Craig Farquhar who headed home past Ferguson to notch up his first senior goal at quite a convenient time to send United's two ends into frenzy. The goal rewarding yet another performance from the very top drawer from the teenager.
Deservedly ahead, Ballymena would have no doubt expected an onslaught from the league table toppers, but just like the rest of the tie it never came, in part due to a Larne side who looked well off it, but mostly down to imperious defending across Ballymena's back five. Ryan headed over at an angle as Larne frustrations began to clearly show, and ten minutes from time McVarnock thought he'd added a second as he slammed the ball home from all of forty yards, but he was unaware a foul on Sule had already been awarded.
With seven minutes to go and nerves jangling, Douglas Wilson stunned Seaview by putting the icing on the cake in style through a Douglas goodie in an outrageous free kick. Graham was hauled down in a prime position twenty yards from goal and with the slight angle seemingly favouring a right footer, McDaid set up to shoot. However, from nowhere Wilson nonchalantly strode up the ball before rifling the most perfect of free kicks you could ever wish to see straight into the top corner, leaving Ferguson standing watching on and cueing limbs in the Railway and North Stand's.
The final five minutes were somewhat of a breeze as Larne could find nothing bar a Sule shot that was easily saved, as the curtain came down on a memorable night.
United sensational all night to a man with no exceptions, with the Sky Blues showing bucket loads of fight, desire and hunger and carrying out a watertight game plan to perfection, to cause an upset and march into another final, where Dungannon Swifts or Crusaders await.
Ballymena United host Glenavon in the Danske Bank Premiership on Monday night, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Sean O'Neill, Ross Redman, Douglas Wilson, Scot Whiteside, David McDaid, Joshua Kelly, Steven McCullough, Jordan Gibson, Robert McVarnock, Sean Graham, Craig Farquhar.

Subs not used: Marcus Thompson, Kym Nelson, Ryan Waide, Kenneth Kane, Andrew McGrory, George Tipton, Michael Place.

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