LARNE’S defence of the Toals.com Senior Shield continues as they booked their semi-final place with an impressive 4-0 win away to Ballymena United.
First half goals from John Herron and Andy Scott was added to by Ronan Hale’s second brace to secure the comprehensive win at the Showgrounds.
Kofi Balmer was coming up against his former club for the first time, after the Northern Ireland under-21’s summer move to Inver Park, and he was instrumental in Larne taking the lead after just six minutes.
Ben Doherty’s corner from the left found Balmer at the back post, but with little chance of finding the net, the defender let the ball run across him before fizzing in a right wing cross.
It was firstly met by the head of Ronan Hale, which Jordan Williamson did well to prevent crossing the line, but John Herron was on hand to nod home the opener.
Larne came close to doubling their lead with 22 minutes on the clock, testing home stopper Williamson twice in quick succession.
Ronan Hale firstly cut in from the left before seeing his shot pushed away by Williamson with the ball worked to Andy Scott on the edge of the box, as Williamson made a more routine save.
Ballymena grew into the game as more an attacking threat as the half wore on, but the closest they came was through Jonte Smith’s looping header, which was comfortably stopped by Canadian Mike Argyrides in the Larne goal.
It was Larne who finished the half strongly however and doubled their lead before the break.
Andy Scott almost got his name on the scoresheet two minutes before the break, but scooped over from Tomas Cosgrove’s cross.
The former Accrington Stanley winger made no mistake a minute later, however. Scott picked up the ball on the left flank before cutting inside and curling a right footed effort past the helpless Williamson and into the top right corner for his first Larne goal.
The Invermen’s dominance continued into the second half, but they had to wait until 57 minutes to extend their lead.
From a Ben Doherty cross on the right flank Dean Jarvis’ goal-bound was blocked but Ronan Hale reacted quickly with a bicycle kick to send the ball home via a combination of post and goalkeeper Williamson.
A flurry of substitutes followed for both sides in the final quarter of the game but there was still time for Larne to add a fourth six minutes from the end.
Substitute Navid Nasseri was released on the left flank but saw his effort from inside the box blocked by Williamson before Hale rifled home his second goal of the night.
The Invermen now await the semi-final draw, where they will be joined by Cliftonville, Linfield and the winners of Ballyclare Comraders and Crusaders.
Ballymena United: Williamson, Redman, Wilson, Winchester (’71 Beattie), McElroy (’71 Waide), McCullough (’46 Keeley), Barr, McCrory, Loughran, Millar, Smith
Unused subs: Johnston, Chapman, Kane, Henderson
Larne: Argyrides, Balmer, Sule, Herron (’71 Mitchell), Hale, Doherty (’79 Oluwa), Scott (’68 Nasseri), Lynch, Cosgrove, Hughes, Jarvis
Unused subs: Ferguson, Kelly, Watson, McDaid
Referee: Raymond Crangle