Jonny Frazer treble fires resilient Linfield Swifts into Steel & Sons Cup final
Linfield Swifts 3 Crumlin Star 2
A second-half hat-trick from Jonny Frazer gave Linfield Swifts a dramatic 3-2 win over Crumlin Star in the Steel & Sons Cup semi-final.
The Amateur League outfit led 2-0 at half-time, only for a sensational treble from Frazer to settle the tie in the young Blues' favour. Frazer struck the winner, a neat penalty, in the third minute of stoppage time at a bustling Seaview.
Alan Dornan's side will now face David Murphy's Dundela in the final on Christmas Eve.
Former Crusaders and Linfield full-back Dornan said: "This is huge for our young players, but also huge for our club. It's been almost 20 years since Linfield last played in the Steel & Sons Cup final, so it means a lot to everyone at the club.
"David Healy told the players that he wants to see them win this trophy. The desire to win trophies doesn't stop at the first team at Linfield, it runs the whole way through the club.
"I was actually looking forward to extra-time because I was confident we would win, but Jonny Frazer's goal meant we didn't have to worry about that."
Crumlin Star grabbed the lead in the 17th minute after a fine piece of play. Joe McNeill played a tidy one-two with James Doyle before composing himself and slotting the ball past Swifts goalkeeper Alex Moore. The former Cliftonville midfielder showed all his guile and class inside the six-yard box.
McNeill was in the thick of the action again five minutes later. He burst into the area once more, only to be clipped by Swifts defender Adam McMullan. Referee Ben McMaster pointed to the spot, despite McMullan's protests. Barry McKervey stepped up and stroked the spot-kick past Moore.
The Swifts improved as the half went on, but despite playing some nice football they were unable to unlock the Amateur League outfit before the break.
The young Blues pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute after a period of pressure. Former Warrenpoint Town man Frazer was on hand to turn the ball into the net after something of a penalty box scramble.
As the clock ticked down, the match became a heated affair with tough challenges flying in. Referee McMaster was forced to brandish his yellow card on more than one occasion.
The Swifts had a strong shout for a penalty in the 69th minute when defender-turned-striker Cameron Stewart went to ground after a strong tackle from Aiden McNeill. Referee McMaster waved away the protests.
Linfield Swifts got a deserved equaliser in the 77th minute. An in-swinging free-kick caused Star all sorts of problems, and Frazer pushed it into the top corner with an outstretched right boot.
The Crumlin Star fans were celebrating a minute later when they believed that Anthony Burns had found a winner, but their celebrations were short-lived as the ball billowed in the side-netting.
Dornan was left shaking his head in the 79th minute when Ross Clarke went to ground inside the area. Although no penalty was awarded, Clarke picked up an injury that ended his game.
With the game set for extra-time, Stewart was fouled in the area by Gary McKernan.
Frazer stepped up and slotted the penalty home to complete his hat-trick and win the tie.
Swifts will play fellow Belfast club Dundela in the final. The NIFL Premier Intermediate League side beat Glebe Rangers 2-0 in Friday night's semi-final, with former Glentoran striker Matty Burrows scoring twice in the final few minutes.
This year's final will be played at Seaview on Christmas Eve as Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.
Crumlin Star: C. McNeill; McLaughlin, McKernan, Berne, A. McNeill; Brown, J. McNeill, Trainor, B. McKervey (60 Burns); Doyle (85 O'Neill), Hawkins (60 Murphy)
Subs Not Used: Donnelly, Fearon
Linfield Swifts: A. Moore; Glendenning, McCallum, Stewart, Neale; Frazer, Lynch (65 Taggart), Houston, Clarke (79 J, Moore); Strain, Fallon Subs not used: Mitchell, McComb, Scannell