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Bangor beat Larne in Steel & Sons Cup final

Bangor 2-1 Larne: Christmas came a day early for Bangor, as they toppled Belfast Telegraph Championship One rivals Larne in the Paddy Power Steel and Son's Cup final on Saturday.

A heart-breaking own goal by Larne's Niall McAllister and a Garth Scates follow-up from a well-worked free kick had the Seasiders' Christmas present wrapped up by half-time, although a 73rd minute penalty from Marc Brown kept it interesting to the finish.

A near capacity-filled Seaview created a fantastic atmosphere for the festive final which had been brought forward from its traditional Christmas Day slot, but the noticeable majority - who had come to cheer on Larne - were left feeling deflated by the final whistle.

A close contest had been widely tipped, and the opening period suggested as much.

Larne were the team carrying all the form into the final, having lost only two of their previous 13 games, but the Clandeboye Road side were fired up to avenge their 2-0 defeat from when the teams last met in the league this season.

Bangor were first to threaten an early goal on four minutes, with Ben Browne collecting from Andy Morrow, before cutting inside to shoot narrowly wide of the mark.

Bangor keeper Paul Cairnduff then had to be at his best to tip over a close-range thump from Paul Maguire, followed by a dangerous, curling Marc Brown free.

After such a bright opening, there was a momentary lull, as both teams got to grips with the slippery 3G surface, and it seemed that chances would be few and far between.

Considering how unfamiliar the teams were with the playing surface, and the magnitude of the stakes, it was commendable that referee Cecil Floyd showed only one yellow card throughout the whole encounter. That arrived for the appositely-named Bangor defender Dean Youle, after a rash challenge on Adam Dick but, thankfully for him and his team-mates, there was no further retribution from the resulting free kick.

The game may have been fairly contested but it was developing into a tactical battle, with much of the play taking place in midfield.

Yet Bangor were enjoying a 2-0 lead at half-time, thanks in no small part to mishaps in Larne's final third.

Midfielder McAllister was left holding his head in his hands after turning the ball into his own goal in the 28th minute, from a seemingly harmless Gareth McLaughlin shot.

Then, on 36 minutes, Bangor extended their lead with a fantastic piece of play down the left wing. Scates knocked a short free kick to Glenn Bowers, who completed a neat one-two with his skipper to catch out the opposition defence, before Scates slotted home from close range.

Any hopes of a Larne revival before the break were dashed when a superb Allen Reid free kick from the edge of the area was tipped over by the impressive Cairnduff.

Bangor maintained their momentum in the second half, with Scates making an eye-catching impact in the centre of the park. The skipper was unfortunate to see his 55th minute shot from an excellent McLaughlin cross go wide.

At the other end, Reid slid a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but was disappointed to look up and find no-one there to meet it.

On a day when several Larne players were failing to get the bit between their teeth, their goalkeeper more than rose to the occasion, despite the earlier goals he conceded.

The Inver Park side had Henry to thank for not falling further behind in the 66th minute. He was on top form as he saved a close-range attempt from Ryan Murray, and when Youle crossed from the rebound, he was perfectly placed to pull off another magnificent stop.

It looked as though these saves might yet help Larne to take the game into extra time, when Gareth Beattie chopped Reid down inside the Bangor box in the 73rd minute.

Brown duly dispatched the spot kick and even though Cairnduff guessed correctly, he couldn't keep out the Larne defender's accurate penalty.

In the end, Paul Millar's side failed to build on this lifeline, leaving Bangor to celebrate their first Steel & Sons Cup final victory since 2004.

They will now seek to overhaul the two-point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Larne, as they bid for a top two finish in the Championship and possible promotion to the Carling Premiership.

Belfast Telegraph