Ballymena United 4, Crumlin Star 0

Gary McCutcheon on the attack for Ballymena United in today's Irish Cup tie with Crumlin Star.
Gary McCutcheon on the attack for Ballymena United in today's Irish Cup tie with Crumlin Star.

Ballymena United cruised into the sixth round of the Irish Cup with a comfortable win over their junior opponents.

Darren Boyce scored twice, along with first half strikes from Matthew Tipton and Gary McCutcheon, while Ballymena were also able to welcome back long-term injury absentees Jim Ervin and David Cushley.

The Amateur League visitors showed no signs of nerves and inside the opening 60 seconds they launched a swift attack, which ended with Mark Mooney’s deflected shot dropping onto the top of the net.

Ballymena went in front from the penalty spot in the fifth minute.

Gary Thompsoin’s hanging cross was punched out by keeper Ciaran McNeill, under pressure from Matthew Tipton and when the ball dropped to Allan Jenkins, referee Evan Boyce adjudged that he had been impeded by Kevin McLaughlin.

Tipton confidently tucked the spot kick into the bottom corner for his 14th goal of the season.

The north Belfast side almost got back on level terms within two minutes when Barry McKervey dispossessed Mark McCullagh 20 yards from goal but after advancing a couple of steps, he snatched at the effort and scuffed his shot wide.

As the snow began to blow at the Showgrounds, United doubled their lead on 29 minutes.

Gary McCutcheon received a pass from Jenkins and cleverly rolled a defender 20 yards from goal. He then weaved his way inside the penalty area, past a couple of challenges before neatly tucking the ball into the bottom corner.

United had another opening on 38 minutes as Jenkins played a one-two with Tipton but as the skipper bore down on goal, his shot could only find the side netting.

Crumlin Star continued to pose a threat on the break and they almost found a way back into the game five minutes before the interval when Kevin Trainor’s 25-yard piledriver crashed off the underside of the bar with keeper Addis well beaten.

Ballymena had an early chance in the second half when Trainor’s miscued clearance fell to Darren Boyce but the striker’s first-time volley flashed wide, while left-back Stephen McBride was also narrowly off target with a drive.

At theb other end, Crumlin Star had strong penalty appeals waved away when referee Boyce adjudged that Johnny Taylor had cleanly tackled Mark Mooney 12 yards from goal. Had the official deemed it a foul, a red card would have inevitably followed for the defender with Mooney in a clear goalscoring position.

There was a rapturous ovation on 55 minutes as Jim Ervin came off the bench for his first appearance since sustaining a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained in last season’s Irish Cup final.

United almost scored a third when McBride burst into the penalty area but his cross-cum-shot drifted inches wide of the far post with Boyce unable to get a decisive touch.

United welcomed back another long-term injury absentee as David Cushley returned following knee surgery and the winger was on the pitch less than a minute when he provided an inviting cross for Darren Boyce to head home United’s third goal from close range on 70 minutes.

The Sky Blues secured their place in the sixth round with seven minutes left when Darren Boyce slotted home.

Crumlin were also reduced to 10 men straight after the goal with defender Paul Berne red-carded for a foul on Jenkins in the lead-up to the goal, with referee Evan Boyce playing an excellent advantage.

It was almost five on 88 minutes when Cushley’s drive cannoned back off the post.

Ballymena United: Addis, Kane, McCullagh (sub Ervin 55), Taylor, McBride, Thompson (sub Teggart 79), McCaul, Jenkins, McCutcheon, Boyce, Tipton (sub Cushley 69). Subs (not used): Surgenor, Gawley.

Crumlin Star: McNeill, McFall, Savage, McKernan, Berne, Trainor (sub Campbell 79), Brown (sub O’Neill 75), Mooney, Doyle (sub Murphy 75), McLaughlin, McKervey. Subs (not used): Lynch, Mervyn.

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).