Leroy Millar (68)

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Leroy Millar wheels away in delight after scoring Ballymena United's winner (©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)

SKY BLUES BOOK ANOTHER LEAGUE CUP FINAL BERTH

Ballymena United reached a fourth League Cup final in five seasons with a narrow victory over Crusaders at Seaview.

The Sky Blues started brightly, going close after seven minutes when James Knowles hit a free-kick which Harry Doherty tipped just over.

Then, after a quarter-of-an-hour, Jude Winchester scuffed a volley just wide when an attempted Colin Coates clearance fell for him.

Jordan Forsythe might have opened the scoring at the other end on 21 minutes with a superb left-foot volley from David Cushley's delivery which Thomas McDermott held well under pressure.

Crues keeper Doherty was then called into action to deal with a Leroy Millar volley after Friel had found him from a blocked Winchester effort.

And Doherty produced an outstanding reaction save in first half stoppage time to thwart Friel who rose highest to send a downward header goalbound from a high cross into the box.

The sides traded half chances during the early part of the second half, but Steven McCullough came closest when his long range free-kick was tipped over the bar.

The deadlock was eventually broken on 68 minutes. Kofi Balmer found Winchester with a superbly executed pass, the ball was then knocked on for Friel who then teed Millar up to volley past Doherty from six yards.

Crusaders pushed hard for the equaliser. They did have the ball in the net soon after falling behind but that was disallowed for foul play while, not long after that, Howard Beverland nodded just wide from a corner.

Later chances followed through Sean Ward, Paul Heatley and Forsythe before, in stoppage time, substitute Kyle Owens just failed to make contact with a dangerous ball across the face of goal.

Crusaders: Doherty, Burns, Beverland, Lowry, Ward, Cushley, Forsythe, Ruddy, Brown, Thompson, Clarke subs O'Neill (not used), Carvill (not used), Caddell (replaced Thompson 73), Holden (not used), K. Owens (replaced Cushley 87), Snoddy (not used), Heatley (replaced Ruddy 76)

Ballymena United: McDermott, Kane, Addis, Friel, Knowles, McCullough, Balmer, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs McCauley (not used), Mayse (replaced Winchester 79), Burns (replaced Lecky 90+1), Nolan (not used), Shevlin (not used), McMurray (not used)

Referee: Tim Marshall

Tags:  Ballymena United  Crusaders