Irish Cup sixth round: Reds stunned by late Cushley double

David Cushley's two late strikes sealed victory for Ballymena

Two last-gasp goals from David Cushley earned Ballymena United a dramatic Irish Cup sixth-round victory over a stunned Cliftonville at Solitude.

George McMullan slotted home a 47th-minute penalty to give the Reds the lead but Cushley fired in a deflected free-kick past Peter Cherrie after 90.

Cushley then stepped up to rifle a superb 28-yard free-kick into the top corner three minutes into added time.

The Reds had squandered a number of chances to put the tie beyond reach.

Both sides had opportunities to break the deadlock in a first half played at a frantic pace, Cushley seeing a shot deflected wide and Allan Jenkins scuffing an effort off-target.

Jay Donnelly directed a free header straight at Ballymena's debutant goalkeeper Tim Allen, who also denied Martin Donnelly prior to the interval.

McMullan coolly converted from the spot two minutes into the second half after Johnny Taylor had challenged Joe Gormley inside the area.

Neal Gawley and Ronan Scannell in action during a frenetic Irish Cup game at Solitude
Neal Gawley and Ronan Scannell in action during a frenetic Irish Cup game at Solitude

Referee Colin Burns waved away penalty appeals at the other end soon after, when Cushley appeared to have been brought down by Jaimie McGovern.

A Matthew Tipton overhead kick flew over the bar and then Jay Donnelly found himself through on goal but Stephen McBride made a vital intervention, taking the ball off the forward's toe.

Allen made a crucial double save from Jay and Martin Donnelly, and the new Sky Blues stopper distinguished himself again by tipping Jay Donnelly's curling left-foot effort onto the post.

Substitute Darren Boyce blazed over when well placed, then Tony Kane tapped the ball to Cushley. whose deflected shot flew into the net in the final minute of normal time.

Cushley sensationally struck again three minutes into injury-time with a powerful drive into the top corner to trigger ecstatic celebrations among the visiting support.

The result avenges United's 3-2 League Cup final defeat by Tommy Breslin's side, whose 36-year wait for an Irish Cup triumph goes on.

Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson: "Our players showed great character and desire to keep going - we had a few blatant penalty appeals turned down and you probably won't see a better goal than David Cushley's second."