Glentoran travelled to Ballinamallard United looking to book their place in the semi-final of the Wasp Solutions League Cup. Despite the atrocious weather conditions of late the Ferney Park pitch was in superb condition and the Ballinamallard groundsman deserves immense credit for that.
The home side started brightly and went in front with just 14 minutes played. The Mallards broke down the right and although the cross was cut out by the defence Johnny Lafferty drove it home off the underside of the crossbar with the aid of a slight deflection. Two minutes later it should have been 2-nil but Liam Martin drove his shot just over the bar. Almost immediately Glentoran lost possession in midfield and Ryan Campbell had an opportunity but couldn’t direct his header on target. It took half an hour for the Glens to have their first serious attempt on goal; Curtis Allen picking up a pass from Stevie Gordon but his shot from the corner of the penalty area was well saved by Stefan McCusker. On 33 minutes Campbell got on the end of another cross but Elliott Morris held his effort. Ten minutes from the interval Glentoran had a great chance to level. Stephen McAlorum’s through ball sent Fra McCaffrey clear. Instead of shooting though he opted to pass the ball to Curtis Allen but his strike from 10 yards out was straight at the keeper. Just before the break Jordan Stewart went on another of his trademark runs, beating four defenders before seeing his shot on goal blocked. Whilst the Glens ended the half with a couple of decent chances they were, by and large, outplayed during that first 45 minutes.
It was a much different Glentoran after the interval. In the first 15 minutes of the second half Barry Holland, Jordan Stewart and Curtis Allen (twice) all went close. The Mallards were still dangerous on the break though and on 64 minutes Ryan Campbell’s effort went just wide of the goal. Substitute David Scullion then had a couple of opportunities for the Glens whilst Johnny Lafferty’s shot on 71 minutes, was deflected for a corner. Glentoran drew level on 76 minutes. Ballinamallard United had a free kick 20 yards from goal but Lafferty’s shot came back off the wall and Glentoran broke away. Danny McKee, another substitute, went for goal from about 35 yards. His stinging drive was too hot for McCusker to hold and Curtis Allen netted the rebound. 3 minutes later Allen went close again, his shot being deflected for a corner. From the set piece the ball fell to McCaffrey but his shot went wide. At this stage the Glens looked like the only winners and Scullion’s curling shot from the edge of the area was inches wide. In the final minute of stoppage time Jordan Stewart’s cross from the left was just too high for Allen.
Ballinamallard United had had much the better of the first half and Glentoran dominated the second. In the first period of extra time the glens continued to press with Allen and Henderson both having attempts on goal. After Jason McCartney went close with a free kick Stephen McAlorum’s low shot was spilled by the Mallards keeper and Curtis Allen knocked the rebound home. Unfortunately the visitors’ celebrations were cut short by a linesman’s raised flag. The second period of extra time was a bit of a non-event, the conditions having sapped the energy of both sets of players. The game went to penalties and with Ballinamallard United netting first through Jason McCartney, Jordan Stewart then saw his spot kick well saved by Stefan McCusker. Lafferty scored and then McCusker produced an even better save than his first to thwart Allen. Raymond Foy kept the home side’s 100% record going before Niall Henderson netted the Glens first. Liam Martin then stepped up to seal Ballinamallard United’s place in the semi-final, sending Morris the wrong way.
Congratulations to Ballinamallard United in reaching their first ever senior semi-final and all at Glentoran wish them all the best in that.
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Holland, Kane, Birney, Addis, McAlorum, Nelson, Gordon, Stewart, McCaffrey & Allen.
Subs: Henderson for Gordon (46), Scullion for Gordon (64) & McKee for Kane (70).