Cliftonville 4, Ballymena United 3

Ballymena United's players dispute referee Ian McNabb's decision to award Cliftonville a penalty in tonight's Toals County Antrim Shield quarter-final at Solitude. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United's players dispute referee Ian McNabb's decision to award Cliftonville a penalty in tonight's Toals County Antrim Shield quarter-final at Solitude. Picture: Press Eye.

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Ballymena United suffered an agonising exit from the Toals County Antrim Shield, losing to an injury time winner from Cliftonville after a pulsating quarter-final tie.

The Sky Blues, who had defender Aaron Stewart sent off 10 minutes from the end, looked to have taken the tie to extra time when Alan Teggart levelled the scores in the final minute of normal time, only for David McDaid to fire home the winner deep into stoppage time.

Darren Boyce celebrates after putting Ballymena United ahead in tonight's Toals County Antrim Shield quarter-final at Cliftonville.

Darren Boyce celebrates after putting Ballymena United ahead in tonight's Toals County Antrim Shield quarter-final at Cliftonville.

Manager Glenn Ferguson made six changes from Saturday’s defeat by Glenavon, including a first appearance of the season for teenage midfielder Eoin Kane.

Tony Kane, Aaron Stewart, Allan Jenkins, Michael Ruddy and Darren Boyce, the latter replacing leading scorer David Cushley, who started on the bench, where he was joined by 16-year-old homegrown striker Matthew Shevlin, who has been a regular scorer for the Reserves since joining from Carniny Youth in the summer.

The reintroduction of Boyce paid early dividends for United as he fired the visitors ahead on 10 minutes with a perfectly-executed lob over Reds keeper Conor Devlin - the striker’s fourth goal of the season.

But the league champions battled back and after James Knowles had fired over a good chance, the Reds levelled on 36 minutes as George McMullan sent United keeper Dwayne Nelson the wrong way from the penalty spot after a foul in the area.

Allan Jenkins came close to restoring Ballymena’s lead when he fired narrowly wide from a Tipton pull-back.

But as the Reds began to dominate possession and Tiarnan Mulvenna wasted a good opening when he shot wide from six yards, while Stephen Garrett fired over after United defender Kyle McVey had miscontrolled the ball.

United survived an early scare in the second half as Joe Gormley beat Ballymena’s offside trap and lifted the ball past the onrushing Nelson, whose momentum saw him collide with the Cliftonville striker, while Davy Munster was on hand to clear the danger.

But the respite was brief as Gormley’s cross on 50 minutes caused hesitation between United’s defence and goalkeeper and Stephen Garrett was on hand to force the ball home.

And the buoyant Reds extended their lead on 59 minutes when Martin Murray fired an unstoppable strike into the top corner, giving Nelson no chance.

Within a minute, however, United had cut the deficit to one as Tipton set up skipper Jenkins to bring the score back to 3-2.

And after Murray had missed a chance to restore the Reds’ two-goal lead, Boyce missed a good opportunity to level the scores when he headed wide from a Kane cross.

At the other end, Nelson produced a point-blank save from Garrett to keep the Sky Blues in the game.

But the Sky Blues’ troubles worsened with 10 minutes left when defender Aaron Stewart was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence following a collision with Garrett.

But there was late drama as substitute Alan Teggart rifled home a shot after a series of short passes in the final minute of normal time.

In a frantic period of injury time, David Cushley and Darren Boyce both spurned opportunities to win it for United and they were made to pay when McDaid scored the winner for the north Belfast side in the final seconds.

Cliftonville: Devlin, R Scannell, Johnston, Flynn, McMullan, Garrett, Knowles, Smyth, Gormley (sub McMurray), Murray, Mulvenna (sub McDaid). Subs: McGovern, Catney, Donnelly.

Ballymena United: Nelson, T Kane, McVey, Munster, Stewart, Taggart (sub Davidson), Jenkins, E Kane (sub Cushley), Ruddy (sub Teggart), Boyce, Tipton. Subs (not used): Shevlin, Harris.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Glengormley)