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Ballymena United 1 Cliftonville 0


Ballymena's Johnny Taylor wins this battle for possession in the Shield encounter

Ballymena's Johnny Taylor wins this battle for possession in the Shield encounter

Darren Kidd

Ballymena's Johnny Taylor wins this battle for possession in the Shield encounter

Ballymena United booked their place in the last four of the County Antrim Shield, disposing of holders Cliftonville in the process.

David Cushley was the hero for the home side as he netted the only goal of the game in the first half of a pulsating clash.

The Braidmen entered the game on the back of Saturday's humiliating derby demolition at the hands of Coleraine and, with boss Glenn Ferguson demanding a positive reaction, United set about defending an unbeaten home record which stretched all the way back to February, when Cliftonville were the victors.

It was the home side who were quickly out of the blocks and lively wideman Cushley notched up a trio of opportunities.

With six minutes on the clock he flashed a shot just wide of Ryan Brown's far post, and a minute later tried his luck again — this time from distance — but saw his shot go the wrong side of the opposite post.

Then, at the midway point of the half, Cushley was on the end of Ross Black's pinpoint cross from the left but headed the wrong side of the crossbar.

Finally, Cushley wasn't to be denied the opener as he found the net with 33 minutes on the clock.

It came with James McCabe racing to the byline and his pass finding Cushley, who unleashed an unstoppable effort from the edge of the penalty area.

Six minutes before the break Aaron Stewart diverted a dangerous Martin Donnelly cross behind for a corner. From the resulting set-piece defender Marc Smyth headed just wide to leave Ballymena with the interval advantage.

The first real opportunity of the second half came when Cushley turned provider for his former Distillery team mate Gary Thompson, but he was unable to get on the end of a teasing cross.

United continued to go in search of a second goal and were to spurn an even easier opportunity on 55 minutes, when McCabe somehow managed to head wide with the goal at his mercy.

Midway through the half Tommy Breslin introduced former Werder Bremen striker Liam Boyce into the action in an attempt to summon an equaliser.

It almost paid dividends as his goal-bound effort produced a last ditch clearance from Johnny Taylor.

With 17 minutes left Stephen Garrett inexplicably backheeled when put through by Boyce, allowing Dwayne Nelson to easily claim the ball.

The visitors pressed hard for an equaliser that would have taken the game into extra-time, but Ferguson's home side held firm and successfully closed the game out.

Ballymena United: Nelson, Rodgers, Black, Taylor, Ruddy, Stuart, Thompson, Taggart, J Davidson (Lowry), McCabe (Surgenor), Cushley. Unused Subs: Teggart, Vauls, Munster.

Cliftonville: Brown, McGovern, Caldwell, McMullan, Garrett, Donnelly, O'Carroll, (Boyce) Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Cosgrove (Gormley). Unused Subs: Holland, Stuart, O'Kane.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).

Belfast Telegraph