Saturday, 16 February 2019
An Andrew Waterworth goal after just a quarter-of-an-hour proved enough to secure the BetMcLean League Cup for Linfield, defeating Ballymena United at Windsor Park.
The Sky Blues almost seized the early advantage when, after seven minutes, Cathair Friel created the opening to tee up James Knowles to have a go from the edge of the area but his shot was deflected onto an upright with Gareth Deane well beaten.
At the other end Kirk Millar delivered a somewhat hopeful free-kick which drifted just past the top corner.
However, Linfield went in front with what proved to be the winner on 15 minutes. Josh Robinson embarked on a long run out of defence with the ball eventually falling for Andrew Waterworth who made no mistake in tucking the finish past Ross Glendinning at the near post.
Ballymena responded positively, and might have levelled midway through the first half when Jude Winchester got past Robinson to fizz the ball across the face of goal but no-one in a Sky Blue was there to apply the finish.
Then, not long after that, a Winchester free-kick found Adam Lecky but his header went the wrong side of the top corner.
Linfield seemed content to soak up this pressure, although did create an opportunity themselves when Niall Quinn's dipping volley was confidently held by Glendinning.
And Linfield had a scare right at the end of the half when a miscommunication between Deane and Jimmy Callacher saw a poor back header go out for a corner but Leroy Millar could only tamely send the resultant set piece over.
Ballymena came storming out of the blocks after the break, creating the first of what proved to be a series of chances on 48 minutes when Friel's goalbound effort was deflected away for a corner with Steven McCullough's well delivered follow-up set piece palmed away by Gareth Deane.
David Jeffrey's side then earned a succession of corners with the closest of these almost paying dividends on 53 minutes through McCullough striking an upright before Friel volleyed the loose ball over.
For Linfield Kyle McClean got on the end of a Jordan Stewart cross but the ball was deflected wide for a corner.
But Ballymena continued to press for the elusive equaliser. Adam Lecky glanced a header straight into the arms of Deane before the Linfield keeper then turned a Friel header over for a corner.
Linfield did begin to show their teeth a little as the game drifted into the final 15 minutes. Quinn's tantalising cross just evaded substitute Michael O'Connor in the middle with the ball scooping away for a corner while Robinson headed wide from another Quinn delivery.
Ballymena responded through Andy McGrory with a volley wide after being played through by a great ball from Jonathan McMurray, with Tony Kane later ambitiously trying to chip the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area with the effort landing on the roof of the net.
However, for all their endeavour, there seemed to be an inevitably about the outcome and so it proved as David Healy's side held on to secure the trophy for the first time in eleven years.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Addis, Friel, Knowles, McCullough, McGrory, Balmer, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs McDermott (not used), Kane (replaced Knowles 46), Quigley (not used), Whiteside (not used), Faulkner (not used), Shevlin (replaced McGrory 83), McMurray (replaced Winchester 74)
Linfield: Deane, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Stewart, Millar, Clarke, McClean, Mulgrew, Quinn, Casement subs Mitchell (not used), Stafford (not used), McGivern (not used), O'Connor (replaced Stewart 67), Forde (not used), Kearns (not used), Cervenka (not used)
Referee: Andrew Davey
|Gareth Deane||90 +2|