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Braidmen's bid to retain the crown is up and running

Ballymena United 3 Knockbreda 0

By Stephen Alexander

Holders Ballymena United eased into the third round of the BetMcLean League Cup after overcoming stubborn Knockbreda. David Jeffrey's men claimed their first win of the campaign as they began the defence of the trophy they won for the first time last season.

The Sky Blues made the best possible start as they took the lead with their first attack, Cathair Friel capitalising on some sloppy defensive work to slot home after only 32 seconds.

It took a top-class piece of goalkeeping from Conor Brennan to keep the senior side ahead on 31 minutes. The former Kilmarnock stopper did well to beat out Ryan Harvey's stinging effort and then sprang across his goal to palm away Mark Cooling's follow-up.

The Braidmen came close to doubling their advantage on 59 minutes when Fra McCaffrey slipped a pass through to Joe McKinney, but keeper David Ferguson spread himself well.

McKinney wasn't to be denied, however, and he made it 2-0 on 64 minutes, showing impressive skill to earn a yard of space inside the penalty area before beating Ferguson at his near post.

Knockbreda were reduced to 10 men in controversial circumstances on 75 minutes when Ryan Arthur, running towards the touchline in an attempt to keep the ball in play, appeared to unavoidably collide with the referee's assistant. It appeared to be accidental but referee Christopher Morrison showed red.

Ballymena rubber-stamped their victory on 82 minutes when Willie Faulkner turned home Steven McCullough's low cross.

Conor McCloskey almost made it four in the closing stages but his fierce shot crashed off the crossbar.

Ballymena United: Brennan, Ervin, Friars, Owens, McCullough, Kane (Gault 66), Thompson, McCloskey, McCaffrey (Faulkner 66), McKinney (McIlhatton 84), Friel. Subs not used: Glendinning, Shevlin.

Knockbreda: Ferguson, Culbert, Hamill, Doran, Arthur, McBurney, Irwin (Murray 62), Newberry, Moore (Pike 77), Cooling (Cafolla 62), Harvey. Subs not used: Walls, Halliday.

Referee: Christopher Morrison (Belfast)

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