Crusaders tonight sealed a Semi Final spot in the League Cup after Jarlath O'Rourke scored a 119th minute winner to beat Ballymena United at the Ballymena Showgrounds. In a free flowing game both sides served up a decent performance but it was Crusaders who seemed to finish the stronger and deserved the victory.
Ballymena United kept Sean O'Neill the busier of the two goalkeepers although Declan Caddell did have the best chance but shot tamely at Jordan Williamson. Sean O'Neill made several good stops to keep it at 0-0 while the Ballymena United defence block shots from Jamie McGonigle on a few occasions. McGonigle though plugged away and was rewarded with an absolute screamer on 39 minutes. The ball fell into the strikers path and he let fly from over 20 yards and it went like a bullet past Williamson high into the net and Crusaders where 1-0 up. McGonigle also had another chance before half time but his header went wide.
The second half was minutes old when Ballymena United where awarded a penalty when Rory Hale tipped a header over the bar with his hands. A straight red followed and Crusaders where reduced to 10 men before Andy McGrory stepped up to equalise from the spot and it was 1-1. The one man advantage did not really change the game as Crusaders matched Ballymena United in all departments. Indeed it was Crusaders who went closest when a great run by Jamie McGonigle ended with a shot that was saved rather than a pass to Philip Lowry who was well placed to score. Sean O'Neill again chipped in with a few saves as Crusaders started to take control. It 10 v 10 on 83 minutes after Adam Leckey hit out and floored Philip Lowry in frustration and Crusaders finished the stronger in the 90 minutes before the ref blew and extra time loomed.
Crusaders fitness started to show and they created half chances but could not convert. Paul Heatley did have the ball in the net on 103 minutes but it was ruled offside but it was tight. The second period of extra time eas like the first period as Crusaders created the chances and Paul Heatley attempted shot spun away at the crucial moment. As the seconds ticked away Crusaders got the late winner. David Cushley controlled a cross and his reverse pass to Ross Clarke was cut back as Jarlath O'Rourke came into the six yard box and opened his body before passing the ball into the far corner of net and it was 2-1 Crusaders. With no time left to mount a come back the whistle went and Crusaders went through to the Semi Finals alongside Linfield, Coleraine and Institute.
So a semi fianl to look forward to but it's back to the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday when Institute visit Seaview for a 3pm kick off.