Chris Morrow hands Crusaders final shot at Linfield
Crusaders 1 Ballymena United 0: Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter hailed Chris Morrow as a 'class act' after his winning strike in last night's County Antrim Shield semi-final against Ballymena United at Seaview.
The 28-year-old hit a beauty 13 minutes from the finish to end United's reign as Shield holders.
It was by no means a classic encounter. Baxter left a number of his 'big guns' kicking their heels on the substitutes bench, but the introduction of midfield maestro Morrow proved to be a masterstroke.
"He's a class act . . . he's got all the tricks," said Baxter. "Chris is a marvellous footballer.
"Class is permanent and that is the type of a footballer you want about your team.
"He took his goal superbly well. Chris has got that ability to see a goal.
"He probably hasn't scored as many as he would have liked this season.
"I also thought Colin Coates and David McMaster were two star performers.
"It was tight enough, but semi-finals are like that. In many ways, the teams' cancelled each other out.
"It was a case of getting over the line. We rested up a few players and brought them on to change things.
"I was pleased with our night's work."
The first half was a total bore although United did miss a glorious chance on 15 minutes when Alan Teggart sliced through the Crues defence with ease and, with only goalkeeper Sean O'Neill to beat, elected to square the ball to Michael McLellan, but the pass was yards behind the striker.
United almost sneaked in front two minutes after the break, with David Cushley fizzing a 20 yard drive just wide.
The lively McMaster then capitalised on a wayward Gavin Taggart pass and tried his luck from distance, which goalkeeper Stuart Addis appeared to paw past the post, but referee Colin Burns wasn't convinced and awarded a goal kick.
Morrow, who replaced the flagging Sean Cleary, then went close with an audacious 25 yard dipper that Addis was relieved to see loop over the crossbar.
But Morrow brought the Shore Road venue to life with his wonderful strike 13 minutes from time.
Jenkins' clearance fell invitingly for the midfielder and his half-volley crashed into the bottom corner of the net.
Paul Heatley,who scored two goals against Warrenpoint Town at the weekend, almost added a second on 83 minutes, but his effort screamed across the face of the goal.
Then, in injury time Heatley ghosted onto a pin-point Snoddy pass, but Addis produced a brave block with his body.
In the decider Linfield will be looking to make up for the disappointment of losing last year's final in heartbreaking fashion following a penalty shoot-out against Ballymena United while Crusaders will be looking for revenge following their Irish Cup final defeat to the Blues in 2012.
Crusaders: O'Neill, Magowan, Coates, Robinson (Morrow 45), Caddell, McMaster, McClean, Snoddy, Cleary (Owens 58), D McAllister, King. Subs: E McAllister, Heatley, Hanley.
Ballymena United: Addis, McCullagh, Munster, McLellan, Surgenor (Ruddy 77), Stewart, Thompson (Lowry 56), Taggart, Teggert (Liggett 81), Jenkins, Cushley. Subs: Robinson, Loughran.
Referee: Colin Burns (Comber).