Darren Henderson leads the celebrations after scoring United's third (Picture: Stephen Hamilton/PressEye.com)
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Ballymena United hit three extra-time goals to book a place in the Northern Ireland League Cup final at the expense of derby rivals Coleraine.
Brad Lyons created the first effort of note after three minutes only to fire over from long range with Ross Glendinning untroubled.
Then, on nine minutes, Kyle Owens bundled Lyons over some 25 yards from goal but Rodney Brown was unable to make the subsequent free-kick count.
Ballymena's first chance followed soon after, Cathair Friel pounced on a poor pass from Neil McCafferty but he failed to caused Chris Johns any problems.
The Bannsiders perhaps came closest inside the cagey opening half-an-hour through David Ogilby after he got on the end of a David Kee free-kick but narrowly failed to get the ball on target.
Neither 'keeper was unduly troubled for the majority of the first 45 minutes until five minutes from the break when a breakdown of communication in the Coleraine midfield allowed Tony Kane to test Johns with a well-executed left-foot drive.
Then, moments from the break, Allan Jenkins failed to find the net from point blank range after he couldn't get a good enough touch to a long Kane throw-in with the goal at his mercy.
United came storming out of the blocks in the second half with Friel and McMurray combining early on with the latter sending the ball straight at Johns.
Another chance followed moments later when, from a corner, Jenkins saw his effort deflected to safety while, on 52 minutes, Friel side footed wide as the Sky Blues continued to press.
Friel came even closer soon after when connecting with a William Faulkner cross to the back post but was thwarted by a superb Johns save to the right.
The deadlock was almost broken in Coleraine's favour on 78 minutes when Brown hit the bar from the loose ball after Ogilby miscued from close range.
With neither side managing to find a way through during normal time an extra 30 minutes were required to determine who would meet Carrick Rangers in the February 18th decider.
United finally seized the advantage five minutes into extra-time when Friel was brought down just inside the area by Douglas, and from the subsequent spot-kick Kane stepped up to convert.
It was 2-0 on 103 minutes when Friel finally got his name on the scoresheet with a straightforward tap-in after connecting with a Leroy Millar cross.
And the game was finally over as a contest ten minutes after that courtesy of substitute Darren Henderson when he buried a header in the back of the net from an inch perfect Kane delivery.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, T. Kane, Owens, Jenkins, Faulkner, Friel, Ervin, Millar, McMurray, McCaffrey, McCracken subs Blayney (not used), Taggart (replaced McCaffrey 102), Henderson (replaced McMurray 107), Wallace (not used), Loughran (not used)
Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Douglas, Ogilby, McCauley, McCafferty, McLaughlin, Brown, Kee, Lyons, McGonigle subs Mullan (not used), McConaghie (not used), Parkhill (replaced McGonigle 116), Doherty (not used), Allan (replaced Kee 80)
Referee: Evan Boyce