Belfast Telegraph

Sky Blues turn on the style to stroll into semis

By Ian Cahoon

Ballymena United produced one of their finest performances of the season to cruised into the League Cup semi-finals with a 4-0 win over Portadown at the Showgrounds last night.

Ironically, United played the majority of the game without a recognised striker, but club captain Allan Jenkins led the line superbly as it rained goals for Glenn Ferguson's men.

David Cushley set the tone early on giving the home side the lead and further goals from Mark Surgenor, Gary Thompson and Ally Taggart after the break put the gloss on a fine performance.

United were ahead with the first meaningful attack of the game after just seven minutes.

Cushley lined up the free-kick from all of 30 yards and despite his low effort taking a slight deflection it left Miskelly red-faced with the ball flying through his hands and into the net.

Portadown rarely threatened to get back on level terms in the first half and Gary Twigg, subdued for the opening exchanges, could only muster two half chances in quick succession.

On the verge of half-time Cushley attempted to double his, and the homeside's, tally as he thunder a ferocious half-volley from 25 yards but Miskelly, backtracking, managed to bat the effort to safely.

Thirteen minutes into the second half United doubled their advantage after fine play from Tony Kane.

The midfielder found time and space on the right flank, he cut inside and continued his run into the penalty box where he unselfishly squared for Surgenor, who was left with a tap-in to get his name on the scoresheet.

As Portadown searched for an immediate response they almost halved the deficit when Darren Murray came within a whisker of converting Chris Ramsey's searching cross at the back post.

Ballymena continued to press however and Cushley brought an acrobatic save from Miskelly on 65 minutes.

Cutting in from the right flank Cushley produced a curling effort which seemed destined for the top corner until the Portadown keeper got up well to turn it around the post.

Surgenor came close to adding his second from the resulting corner, but headed just over the crossbar.

But there was to be no way back for Ronnie McFall's men as Ballymena put the game beyond any doubt and booked a semi-final place with a third goal.

Gary Thompson scored a fine individual goal as he pick the ball up just over halfway line, ran at the heart of the defence before checking back and curling a fine effort with his left foot into the top corner from 18 yards.

Ally Taggart added a stoppage time penalty to complete the rout, after Cushley had been upended by goalkeeper Miskelly.

Ballymena United: Addis, Kane, McCullough, Taylor, Surgenor (Dolan), Stewart, Thompson, Jenkins (Ruddy), Cushley, Taggart, Munster. Subs: Liggett, McLellan, Nelson

Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, Ramsey, Breen, McMahon, Murray, Braniff (McStay), McCafferty, O'Connor (Mouncey), Twigg, Friars (Traynor). Subs: Brennan, Barton.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Bangor).

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