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

Lisburn Distillery Match Preview
Uploaded Sunday, 7th May, 2023 at 18:56

Date: Sunday, 7th May, 2023; Competition: Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup - Final; Attendance: N/A;
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Crusaders [1] [4]
Venue: National Stadium; Kick-Off: 14:30;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Stephen Donaldson; Assistant 2: Ryan Kelsey; 4th Official: Evan Boyce; Additional Assistant 1: Rachel Greer;
[0-1] CLARKE, Ross (12 mins), [0-2] LECKY, Adam (53 mins), [0-3] LOWRY, Philip (65 mins), [0-4] HEATLEY, Paul (68 mins)

BALLYMENA United suffered a second straight Samuel Gelston's Irish Whiskey Irish Cup final defeat to Crusaders after being heavily beaten 4-0 at the National Stadium on a bitterly disappointing Sunday afternoon.
There were three changes for United for the season's showpiece event after last Saturday's final league win over Carrick, as Ryan Waide, Robert McVarnock and Sean Graham came in for Jordan Gibson, Andrew McGrory and Michael Place.
After last year's agonising defeat to the same opponents in the cruellest of circumstances at Windsor Park, United would've desperately been hoping to right the wrongs of last year, but they got off to a nervy start in front of a bumper crowd. Less than two minutes in, those nerves showed when Jordan Williamson took his eye off the simplest of headers back to him by Craig Farquhar, with the goalkeeper just about scrambling the ball off the line in time to spare his blushes.
Things weren't looking much better a minute later as Jude Winchester headed wide off a corner when he really should've scored, before the same man raced clear from an Adam Lecky flick on, only for Williamson to make a huge save.
However, from the very next attack Crusaders finally broke the deadlock on twelve minutes, and it was fully deserved. That said, it was an unfortunate one for United as Ross Clarke picked the ball up on the edge of the box and when he wasn't closed down he had a go, but his strike took a wicked deflection off Steven McCullough to take it away from Williamson and in.
Following the goal, play was stopped for a minute as the whole of the National Stadium paid tribute to young Crusaders girls footballer Kaylee Black, who tragically passed away at just 13 this week, after a minute's silence prior to kick off as well.
After falling behind, the Braidmen were finally able to stop the Crusaders onslaught as they just about got half a foot into the game. Twenty-five minutes in United finally created a chance when Ross Redman hung on a high cross into the box, and whilst Joshua Kelly headed well wide, it was at least something.
After a bit of a lull in the capital, Crusaders took over again to end the half strongly. Paul Heatley looked to be in for 2-0 until a perfect last-ditch tackle from Scot Whiteside, before Williamson came for a cross but spilled it into the path of Philip Lowry, but Williamson made amends with a huge save. In the final chance of the half, United's stopper continued to keep Ballymena in it with a strong hand to keep out Jordan Forsythe, before the same man put the follow up wide by inches, but as the half time whistle went, a very out of sorts Ballymena would've been happy to be just the one goal behind.
Now shooting into a Kop end almost full with a sea of sky blue, United started the second half in a slow fashion again, and just eight minutes in Crusaders put one hand on the trophy with a strange second goal. The Shore Road men again bypassed Ballymena's midfield with ease and an overload down the right ended with Lecky finding Jarlath O'Rourke who hit the post. The follow up was poorly cleared and it fell for Lecky, whose mis-hit shot looked to be flying well over the crossbar from where the United fans were sitting, but it instead looped over Williamson and somehow went in.
Given United were yet to show up in truth, creating one sole chance till now, the task facing them couldn't have been harder, and they never looked like making in roads. The lack of quality was laid bare by the fact on fifty-six minutes Johnny Tuffey had to make his only save of the final, but it was a simple hold of Farquhar's header.
With Ballymena needing to do something, Michael Place and Jordan Gibson came on, but after Forsythe almost caught Williamson out with a free kick from way out, the big day went from bad to worse as a hugely disappointing team in sky blue went three down. It felt like Crusaders' numerous set pieces would eventually amount to something, and it did when Lowry rose highest to guide a corner home into the bottom corner.
By this point it looked like the score could be anything with the Hatchetmen now on a procession to the crown, and three minutes after the third there was a fourth as United completely capitulated. Again, Crusaders went down the right and when Ballymena failed to clear Lowry's poor strike, the same man teed up Heatley who curled home a beauty from just outside the box to see Crusaders surge further clear.
The final twenty minutes were somewhat of a non-event, with United's players knowing the game was long up and Crusaders happy to just see things out still in second gear. With five minutes to go substitute Kenneth Kane put a ball across the six-yard box for Gibson who missed it by millimeters in front of what was left of a deflated Ballymena end.
No additional time added on just about summed up the lack of a contest in the second half as the party started for Crusaders for the second year running, but as for United, they simply didn't turn up from minute one to disappoint a fantastic travelling support, as a hugely disappointing season ended in similar fashion with an Irish Cup final performance to forget.
That was Ballymena United's last fixture of the 2022/23 season, so we look forward to seeing you next season.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Jordan Williamson, Ross Redman ( Jordan Gibson 57), Douglas Wilson ( Kenneth Kane 78), Scot Whiteside, David McDaid, Joshua Kelly, Ryan Waide, Steven McCullough, Robert McVarnock ( Michael Place 57), Sean Graham ( Andrew McGrory 86), Craig Farquhar.

Subs not used: Sean O'Neill, Evan Tweed, George Tipton.

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