Ballymena United under-19s stormed into the semi-finals of the IFA Harry Cavan Youth CUp with a 4-1 win over Glentoran on Saturday.
Clifford Adams’ side produced a barnstorming second half display to reach the last four of the prestigious competition and set up a showdown with St Oliver Plunkett.
The wee Sky Blues came into this match knowing it was going to be a tough battle to get to the next round but this young group of players have shown great belief, talent and an excellent work ethic.
Ballymena started off by taking the game to Glentoran and on the 10th minute from a Nixon long throw caused all types of trouble when it wasn’t dealt with and Jake McNeill’s well struck shot thundered off the crossbar.
On the 21st and 27th minute, Ballymena’s young 16 year old goalkeeper Callum McCabe pulled off two excellent saves to keep the Sky Blues in the game.
On the 31st minute after a poor clearance from Ballymena, the Glens started to build an attack down the right and after good work by the Glentoran winger the ball was laid across the edge of the box for defender Eddie Shaw to side foot the ball into the left hand corner giving the keeper no chance from 25 yards.
After this the Sky Blues dropped their performance an if wasn’t for good saves by McCabe, it could have been a bigger deficit at the break.
After a bit of a reshuffle at half time, United came out a completely different team and on the 47th minute Josh Corry powered a header past the keeper giving him no chance, then on the 53rd minute, after a good free kick by McNeill, Leon Bonnes saw his header come off the crossbar.
On the 57th minute Ballymena were awarded a free kick after a foul on Nixon. Jake McNeill floated in a good free kick and striker Dave Woods placed his header into the top right corner giving the Glens keeper no chance to give Ballymena the lead.
From another set piece left back Josh Corry headed in his second of the game on the 73rd minute then Jake McNeill was unlucky to see his well struck free kick pushed over the bar by the Glens keeper.
With five minutes left, Leon Bonnes first time header played in Nixon who got tackled as he was about to shoot but the onrushing McNeill finished first time into the bottom right hand corner and that finished the game as a contest to send United into the semi finals on Wednesday 10th February at a neutral venue in what I’m sure will be another tough game.
“It was an absolutely top drawer second half of football showed the type of quality they have within this young side and it’s nothing less than they deserve getting to the semi’s with all the hard work the players put in,” said manager Adams.
“A special word of thanks to Paul Quigley, Neil Hanley from Ballymena Utd and David Hanna from Carniny Amateurs who helped clear the ice and snow off the pitch to help make sure the game went ahead - without their help there’s no doubt the game would have been off.
“A big word of thanks to first team goalkeeper coach Wes Lamont coming up to take the warm up for the goalkeepers and he will be sorely missed as he’s stepping down from first team coaching due to work commitments but hopefully we’ll not see the last of him around the club,” added Cliffy.
United youth: McCabe, Corry, Agnew, Crawford,Campbell, Bonnes, McNeill, Lowry, Nixon, Hamilton, Woods. Subs: Logan, Perkins, McCready,Dobbin, Black.
This Saturday United have no game but will be training or playing a friendly in preparation for the next league game.