Liam Bagnall gets to the ball ahead of Leroy Millar (©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)
Wednesday, 09 May 2018
Cliftonville swept past Ballymena United with a second half four goal blast at Solitude to book a place in the Europa League play-off final.
The opening half-an-hour proved to be a relatively uneventful affair. Cliftonville enjoyed the majority of possession but, ultimately, neither keeper was really troubled.
United were reduced to ten men on 31 minutes when Kevin Braniff was dismissed for a challenge on Conor McDonald for what was his second booking in quick succession.
Cliftonville almost made their numerical advantage count with five minutes of the first half remaining when Chris Curran, on the edge of the box, spotted Ross Glendinning off his line before the ball was cleared for a corner.
The Reds upped the ante after the break, eventually finding a way past Ross Glendinning on 67 minutes when Jay Donnelly collected a loose ball on the edge of box, bypassed a tackle and slotted home at the near post.
And they hit the visitors with three goals in the closing ten minutes to underline their second half dominance.
Jay Donnelly doubled his tally on 81 minutes after controlling a Stephen Garrett pass to the back post with his chest.
Then, four minutes after that, Joe Gormley added a third into the bottom corner after Garrett delivered another ball which Jay Donnelly knocked on.
Gormley completed the scoring in the closing moments with a curling effort into the top corner.
Cliftonville will meet Glentoran on Saturday at Solitude (12th May, kick-off 3pm) for a place in the Europa League.
Cliftonville: Neeson, Ives, Grimes, Harney, Curran, Bagnall, Gormley, J. Donnelly, Cosgrove, McDonald, R. Donnelly subs McGovern (not used), Garrett (replaced McDonald 56), Dunne (not used), Lavery (replaced R. Donnelly 86), A. Donnelly (not used)
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Kane, McAlorum, Friel, Braniff, Burns, Balmer, Ervin, Millar, McCaffrey, Quigley subs Owens (replaced Burns 65), McCloskey (not used), Faulkner (not used), Shevlin (replaced Quigley 78), McKinney (replaced McCaffrey 68)
Referee: Raymond Crangle