Allan Jenkins (45)
Conor McCloskey (90 2)

2

BALLYMENA UNITED - NI LEAGUE CUP WINNERS 2016/17!

Ballymena United are the 2016/17 Northern Ireland League Cup winners following a two-goal defeat of Carrick Rangers at Seaview.

The Sky Blues enjoyed the best of what chances were created during the opening quarter-of-an-hour although they did lack that essential cutting edge.

Fra McCaffrey created the first effort of note after seven minutes only to fire wide while, a little later, Jonathan McMurray sent the ball over from the edge of the area after connecting with a Leroy Millar ball from the left.

A similar fate met another Millar ball moments after that, this time from the head of Allan Jenkins.

However, as the first half progressed, Carrick began to find their feet and came close themselves on 21 minutes after Steven McCullough brought the ball to the edge of the area before laying it off for T.J. Murray but his subsequent shot was skewed wide of the far post.

Play switched to the other end once more, with Carrick 'keeper Brian Neeson forced into a backwards save to tip over a McMurray volley from outside the area.

And that man McMurray threatened again a few moments after that but, on this occasion, he fizzed his shot past the far post after an initial Millar effort was blocked.

Clearly growing in confidence, though, Carrick pushed forward again but will feel they could have done better when Daniel Kelly laid the ball off for Sean Noble but, again, poor finishing failed to trouble Ross Glendinning.

But the deadlock was finally broken just before the break when William Faulkner did well to get the ball to Jenkins and the 35-year-old made no mistake tucking the finish into the bottom corner.

As might have been expected Carrick came out with an extra impetus to their play early in the second half, coming close three minutes in when a McCullough free-kick from distance was curled just a few yards over.

This perhaps sparked Ballymena back into life. Moments later McMurray saw an effort parried by Brian Neeson with his follow up being directed into the side netting.

And further United chances followed before the hour. Cathair Friel beat a defender to create an opening for McMurray but his shot was deflected over while Caolan Loughran sent a header a little too high from a Tony Kane cross.

The Sky Blues came within a whisker of doubling their lead with just under a quarter-of-an-hour remaining when Kane almost blasted home a free-kick into the top corner only to be thwarted by an acrobatic Neeson stop - and from the subsequent corner Jenkins turned the ball over.

With time running out, Rangers pushed hard for the equaliser. Substitute Adam Salley might have found a way through with nine minutes remaining when he turned the ball over after Daniel Kelly had touch on a McCullough free-kick.

Another McCullough set piece almost paid dividends five minutes after that when Nathan McConnell cushioned it low towards an upright but Ross Glendinning did superbly well to touch it wide.

It was to be Ballymena's night, however, when, two minutes into added time, substitute Conor McCloskey blasted an unstoppable effort beyond the reach of Neeson into the top corner.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, T. Kane, Owens, Jenkins, Faulkner, Friel, Ervin, Millar, McMurray, McCaffrey, Loughran subs Thompson (replaced T. Kane 90), Henderson (replaced McMurray 90+3), McCloskey (replaced McCaffrey 81), Allen (not used), McCracken (not used)

Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Chapman, McCullough, Surgenor, McNally, Clarke, McAllister, T.J. Murray, Kelly, M. Murray, Noble subs Salley (replaced Clarke 61), Morrow (replaced M. Murray 84), Taggart (not used), McConnell (replaced McAllister 80), Imbert (not used)

Referee: Ian McNabb