Ballymena United beat Linfield in dramatic Co Antrim Shield Final

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Ballymena edge out Linfield in five goal thriller to win Shield

Ballymena United held on to clinch a dramatic 3-2 victory in the County Antrim Shield Final as Linfield twice hit the woodwork in the dying moments.

After a scrappy opening, Paddy McNally nodded Ballymena ahead on 32 minutes.

Guy Bates struck a controversial equaliser on 52 but David Cushley's deflected effort restored Ballymena's lead before Eoin Kane made it 3-1.

Mark Stafford replied on 86 before Kirk Millar and Aaron Burns hit the woodwork in a frantic finale at Windsor Park.

The victory earned Ballymena the club's sixth County Antrim Shield triumph as Glenn Ferguson's side repeated their 2012-13 success in the competition.

Both teams lacked composure in the windy conditions early on although Linfield did carve out a couple of chances as Bates saw a close range effort blocked by Jim Ervin, before Jamie Mulgrew hit the woodwork on 18 after playing a one-two with Niall Quinn.

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Ferguson delight as United win Shield

However, Ballymena took the lead on 32 as McNally rose to head a Tony Kane free-kick pass Ross Glendinning.

Linfield did pick up the pace after the break but their equaliser infuriated Ballymena with Bates stabbing home from close range after referee Ian McNabb had awarded a contentious free-kick.

Ervin appeared to have made a good challenge on Andy Waterworth but the free-kick was awarded and Ballymena keeper Alan Blayney's attempted punched clearance eventually fell to Bates who made no mistake.

Ballymena looked to be losing their composure as Ervin and Allan Jenkins were booked for their protests but the Braidmen were back in front within seven minutes as Crusaders-bound Cushley's shot took a wicked deflection off Stafford to beat Glendinning.

Eoin Kane increased Ballymena's lead on 76 after poor defending by Stafford as some Linfield fans began to leave Windsor Park.

However, Ballymena's supporters were living on their nerves again in the 86th minute as Stafford headed a Mark Haughey cross past former Linfield keeper Blayney.

Inevitably, Linfield produced intense late pressure as Millar slammed a fierce shot off the underside of the crossbar and Burns then stabbed against a post in the final minute of injury-time after a glancing Stafford header.

But Ballymena held on as manager Ferguson celebrated a notable success over his former international team-mate David Healy.

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