Ballymena end trophy drought with Co Antrim Shield success

GET IN: Ballymena United's Davy Munster scores against Linfield last night
GET IN: Ballymena United's Davy Munster scores against Linfield last night

BALLYMENA United ended 23 years of agony by in a dramatic County Antrim Shield final against Linfield at the Oval on Tuesday night.

Alan Davidson held his nerve when it mattered to rattle home the spot kick to earn the Sky Blues their first trophy since 1989.

It was always going to take a sudden-death penalty shoot out to separate the sides following a frenetic 110 minutes of action.

Defender Davy Munster headed United into a first half lead, but substitute Blues’ Brian McCaul levelled midway through the second period.

Neither side took the chances that fell their way in extra time, and it was left to Davidson to fire home the winner after David Cushley, Tony Kane, Allan Jenkins all hit the net for United.

Jim Ervin Michael Cavill and McCaul were on target for the Blues, who suffered their fourth successive final defeat.

United opened their account as Tony Kane’s free kick was met by little David Cushley. His thundering header cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar and big Munster was first to react, heading in the rebound.

Linfield should have equalised five minutes later. Skipper Michael Gaunt whipped in a right wing cross for Carvill, but his first time effort crashed off the base of the post with Addis again beaten.

Jeffrey introduced striker, Peter Thompson, at half-time in a bid to inject fresh impetus into his flagging side.

But it was United who almost doubled their lead five minutes after the break with William Bingham cutting in from the right and firing in a vicious low drive that Glendinning did well to beat away.

The Blues began to up the tempo, Carvill and Thompson combined seconds later with Mulgrew hopelessly firing a volley well wide.

Carvill held his head in shame on 63 minutes when he missed a glorious chance to level.

Thompson’s cute flick caught the United defence square and, with only Addis to beat, the little striker lashed his shot over the crossbar.

United were living on their nerves. Defender David Armstrong was next to hold his head in frustration when he met a Jim Ervin free kick, but Addis produced a wonder save at the base of the post.

The Blues at last gave their fans something to cheer on 74 minutes when goal hero Munster hauled down Carvill inside the box and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick that was expertly despatched by substitute McCaul – his first touch.

Incredibly, United almost won it in the last minute of, but Glendinning produced a wonderful save from Alan Davidson’s 30 yard free kick.

Glendinning established himself with another smart save to deny Cushley in extra time, then at the other end, Thompson somehow headed McCaul’s cross over the top when it looked easier to score.

Ballymena United: Addis, Kane, Black, Munster (Jenkins 82), Surgenor, Stewart, Thompson, A Davidson, Costello (McCabe 97), Bingham (J Davidson 65), Cushley.

Subs: Nelson, Rodgers.

Linfield: Glendinning, Ervin, Garrett (McCaul 72), Armstrong, Gault, Murphy, Black, Browne (Fordyce 60), Hanley (Thompson 46), Mulgrew, Carvill.

Subs: Lowry, Watson.

Referee: R Crangle (Belfast).