Report: Andrew Morrison
Photo: Bill Guiller
Larne are through to the final of the County Antrim Shield after beating Ballyclare Comrades 8-0 at Inver Park.
The emphatic victory sets up a clash with Linfield in the decider on Tuesday 11th January – when Larne will look to defender their title – after the Blues defeated Cliftonville on penalties in the other semi-final.
Tiernan Lynch made five changes from the side that beat Warrenpoint at the weekend with Rohan Ferguson, Lee Lynch, Navid Nasseri, Dean Jarvis and Andrew Mitchell coming into the starting eleven.
Despite the changes Larne got off to a quick start with the first chance of the game falling to Ronan Hale after just two minutes. A forward pass from Kofi Balmer was intended for Lee Lynch however after he failed to control it the ball made its way to the number 9 in space. Unfortunately his effort from the edge of the box was saved by goalkeeper Richard Purcell.
Just moments later came the opening goal. A corner from Lee Lynch was met in the six yard box by the onrushing Kofi Balmer. After Purcell thought he had managed to keep out the defenders effort, the linesman deemed it had crossed the line following appeals from the Inver Reds.
The home side continued to come close and looked a particular threat from corners as after ten minutes they nearly made it two. This time a Tomas Cosgrove delivery was won by Cian Bolger at the back post only to be well saved.
Larne continued to create chances and soon made it 2-0. After dispossessing Ballyclare’s Christoper Ramsey at the half way line, a counter attack including Lee Lynch and Navid Nasseri saw the latter drive to the byline before cutting back to Mark Randall who finished from 8 yards out.
As the half drew on the Championship side began to see more of the ball than in the opening quarter of an hour but still couldn’t create a significant chance. Their most notable effort came as Liam Hassin played through Adam Gray only for the forward to scuff his effort wide.
The traveling supporters in the McKay Stand were then appealing for a penalty following a coming together between Randall and Mathieson. The collision saw the Ballyclare man go to ground amid a crowded penalty box as referee Shane Andrew waved play on.
Before the break there was time for another Larne goal. Tomas Cosgrove picked the ball up just inside the Ballyclare half before crossing from deep towards the back post. That was were Ronan Hale reacted first with his header going into the top left corner to continue his good form and make it 3-0.
Half-time: Larne 3 Ballyclare Comrades 0
Once the game resumed Inver Reds continued the second half as they ended the first, seeing most of the ball and creating the better chances. However, just moments after the restart there was a brief delay as referee Shane Andrews had to be replaced by fourth official Ben McMaster.
After 57 minutes they successfully unlocked the Ballyclare defence once more as a well weighted ball by Lee Lynch was lofted over the top to Ronan Hale. The forward took one touch to control before volleying past the goalkeeper for his second of the night and Larne’s fourth.
Soon after it was five. A well worked move down the left saw Nasseri combine with Lynch before his cross was met by Dean Jarvis. His header back across the face of goal found youngster Matthew Lusty whose shot seemed to be saved by Purcell before trickling in just minutes after he came off the bench.
The goals continued to flow for the Inver Reds as Navid Nasseri added a sixth after 76 minutes. The winger cutting in from the left beat four Ballyclare defenders on the edge of the box before his right footed shot found the bottom corner from distance.
Just like Lusty, Conall Curran came off the bench to score. Graham Kelly’s ball in behind the full back was picked up by Tomas Cosgrove before playing a flat cross into the penalty area and found the youngster six yards from goal to make it 7-0.
Immediately after it became 8-0 as Curran marked his debut by scoring his second of the night in very similar fashion to his first. This time the 17-year-old found himself unmarked at the back post for another tap in as Lee Lynch delivered from the right flank.
The Inver Reds will now play Linfield in the final next month after they beat Cliftonville at Solitude on penalties.
Full-time: Larne 8 Ballyclare Comrades 0
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly, Nasseri, Randall (’59 Doherty), Hale (’59 Lusty), Lynch, Mitchell, Bolger, Cosgrove (’72 Curran), Jarvis
Unused subs: Argyrides, Watson, Sule, Oluwa, Curran
Ballyclare Comrades: Purcell, Curtis Woods, Ramsey, Hassin, Mathieson, Dobbin, Fletcher, McCart, Heggarty (’65 Tully), Gray (’51 Herron), Donnelly (’72 Johnston)
Unused subs: Ferguson, McCune, McDermott, Devine
Referee: Shane Andrews