County Antrim Shield semi-final: Ballymena beat luckless Larne

Ballymena beat Larne after extra-time in their Shield semi-final

Ballymena United snatched a dramatic 3-2 extra-time win over luckless Larne in the County Antrim Shield Semi-Final.

Stuart McMullan's superb 76th-minute strike appeared to have won it for Larne only for Willie Faulkner to equalise in the 89th minute.

Darren Henderson put Ballymena ahead early in extra-time at Inver Park before Conall McGrandless levelled.

Penalties loomed before David Cushley's winner a minute from the end of extra-time after a defensive mistake.

Cushley hadn't enjoyed one of his better performances after missing a hat-trick of first-half chances and also squandering a couple of second-half opportunities.

While Tony Kane also tested Larne keeper Paddy Flood in the opening period, it was a largely tentative first-half display by the Premiership Braidmen against the Championship One outfit.

Stuart McMullan celebrates after putting Larne ahead at Inver Park
Stuart McMullan's goal appeared to have won the game for Larne in normal time

The home side were also without leading goalscorer and captain Paul Maguire plus several other influential performers including Thomas Robinson and Darren Stuart.

Larne felt they were denied a stonewall penalty in the 35th minute as Kevin Bradley appeared to be bundled over in the box, with referee Ross Dunlop possibly feeling that the home player's tumble had been somewhat theatrical.

The third quarter in normal time was distinctly dull and Ballymena appeared set to pay for their cautious approach as McMullan stroked in a glorious effort into the top corner on 76 minutes.

As Cushley sliced horribly wide and Jenkins also was off target, Larne looked destined to hold on only for Faulkner to level with a minute of normal time left after a nod-down from lively substitute Henderson.

Henderson, himself, headed Ballymena into the lead a minute into extra-time after the hitherto excellent Flood could only parry a tame Faulkner cross.

To their credit, Larne were on terms within five minutes as McGrandless bundled home after some awful Ballymena defending but the home players were left devastated in the final minute of extra-time as Cushley pounced to hammer to the net following a defensive error.

Ballymena don't yet know their final opponents after Tuesday's other scheduled semi-final between Carrick Rangers and Linfield was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.

Larne's John Donnelly battles with Ballymena's Tony Kane at Inver Park
Ballymena equalised late in normal time before snatching victory with a minute remaining in extra-time