NI League Cup semi-final: Ballymena Utd 3-1 Cliftonville

Ballymena book their pace in the League Cup final with a 3-1 win over Cliftonville

Holders Ballymena United defeated Cliftonville 3-1 at the Showgrounds to secure a place in next week's League Cup final against Dungannon Swifts.

Leroy Millar fired home a rebound on the hour mark, with Tony Kane making it 2-0 with a glancing header from a long Conor McCloskey throw-in on 72 minutes.

Jude Winchester pulled one back when his shot squirmed over the line on 89.

Cathair Friel ensured victory with an incredible effort from inside his own half with the goalkeeper off his line.

The last-four tie eventually took place almost two months later than initially scheduled after being postponed three times because of the freezing wintry weather.

A heavy pitch made it difficult for both teams to play their best football but Cliftonville had the better of the first-half chances.

Ballymena players celebrate Leroy Millar's opening goal
Ballymena players celebrate Leroy Millar's opening goal at the Showgrounds

Jay Donnelly was unable to apply the finish to Joe Gormley's cross and later Donnelly's cross proved just too high for the head of Gormley to connect with.

Conor McDonald fired a right-foot drive wide of the post and Donnelly was again off-target with another attempt.

Braniff went close for Ballymena before Millar reacted quickly to rifle into the net after Brian Neeson was only able to parry Tony Kane's right-foot shot.

Kane got his name on the scoresheet after meeting substitute McCloskey's throw-in, before Winchester scrambled the ball over the line to make it a nervous last few minutes for the hosts.

Friel wrapped things up in added time with a stunning audacious long-range effort into the net from midway inside his own half.

Ballymena will play Dungannon in the final at Windsor Park next Saturday, with a 17:30 GMT kick-off, as they aim to make it back-to-back successes in the competition.

The Sky Blues will aim to make up for the disappointment of losing last month's County Antrim Shield final to Crusaders.

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