Ballymena United give David Jeffrey night to remember with Linfield win
Ballymena United 4 Linfield 1
Ballymena United marched into the quarter-finals of the League Cup, dismantling 10-man Linfield with a show-stopping performance at the Showgrounds on a night of high emotion for David Jeffrey.
Despite taking the lead through Jimmy Callacher, the Blues were second best throughout as a pair of stunners from Johnny McMurray sandwiched a Cathair Friel thunderbolt, with Willie Faulkner's composed finish adding more shine.
Ross Gaynor's red card after half time compounded David Healy's side's woes as they crashed out of a cup for the second time in four days.
Linfield legend Jeffrey took on the Blues for the first time as an opposing manager, and his Ballymena side started the game in fifth gear.
His front pairing of Friel and McMurray looked to expose the extra-time exertions that Healy's men had endured in the IRN-BRU Challenge Cup against Queen of the South in Dumfries on Sunday, with former Limavady man Friel getting in behind a flat-footed and leggy back line early on.
However, he wasn't able to find his shooting boots in the opening period. It was a similar story for McMurray and midfielder Allan Jenkins in the opening exchanges as the Linfield defence parted, only to be saved by Roy Carroll.
The opening goal didn't look to be far away, and when it did come, it was completely against the run of play, Callacher bundling the ball over the line from close range on 19 minutes after Jenkins' wayward defensive header was dropped on the line by Ben McCauley.
Thrown in at the deep end, McCauley only had to wait three minutes for his blushes to be spared as Ballymena levelled in style. A quick ball up the right channel was taken in his stride by McMurray, who picked his spot inside Carroll's near post from the edge of the box.
The goals brought a bit of needle to the game with neither side prepared to relinquish possession as the half wore on.
And as it ran down, a moment of magic from Friel put the Braidmen in front.
Side-stepping a reckless tackle on the right of midfield, the in-form striker took a touch and lashed a dipping effort over Carroll and under the bar from 25 yards to push Jeffrey's boys ahead at half time in a quite simply outrageous fashion.
The second half began at the same tempo as the first, with the hosts starting brighter.
However, on their first meaningful foray forward, Linfield found themselves reduced to 10 men.
Gaynor, booked just before the break, received a second yellow from referee Raymond Crangle for simulation after a challenge just inside the home box.
It was a decision that did not please the travelling support, and on the hour they became further disgruntled as McMurray audaciously lobbed Carroll from way out on the right to make it 3-1.
And it was 4-1 in the 72nd minute when a quick break allowed former Blueman Jim Ervin to send a deep cross to the back post for the unmarked Faulkner, who slammed the ball through Carroll's legs with aplomb.
With the game won, Ballymena invited the 10 men of Linfield on to them, McCauley making a couple of fine stops to erase his earlier blunder.
Jenkins should have made it five in the 90th minute when space opened up in front of goal, but 4-1 was a fine final score for Jeffrey's side's dominant display.
Ballymena United: McCauley, Ervin, McBride (Millar 90), Owens (Flynn 83), Loughran, T. Kane, Thompson (McCloskey 86), Jenkins, Faulkner, Friel , McMurray.
Subs not used: E Kane, Shevlin
Linfield: Carroll, Stafford (Haughey) Clingan, Callagher, Bright (R. Clarke 60), Millar (Quinn 72), Burns, M. Clarke, Casement, Mulgrew, Gaynor.
Subs not used: Ward, Carson,
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)
Man of the match: Johnny McMurray (Ballymena United)
Match rating: 6/10