LARNE booked their place in the County Antrim Shield semi-finals with an impressive 3-1 win at home to Premiership side Arts.
The Invermen were three goals to the good after just 56 minutes following a blistering start to the game for Tiernan Lynch’s side. The visitors pulled one back on the hour mark and came back into the contest, but it was the Championship leaders who join Ballymena United, Linfield and Crusaders in Saturday’s draw.
Ards began the match on the front foot, but it was the home side who began to look more dangerous and had the best early chance, when Marty Donnelly picked up his own blocked free-kick on 14 minutes, to fired the rebound just over.
However, Michael Doughterty, making his second start of the season, had to be alert shortly afterwards to turn away Callum Buyers’ header.
Strong penalty appeals were waved away when Donnelly went down inside the box, but the deadlock was broken on 27 minutes through an excellent individual goal.
Ben Tilney picked the ball up just into the Ards half as the home side broke and, despite having options either side, he rifled his effort into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Nine minutes later, Larne doubled their lead with another goal of real quality on the break. Jeff Hughes sprayed the ball to the left to Donnelly and the winger delivered the ball into the onrushing David McDaid to slam home a volley on the side foot.
Mark Kelly missed an opportunity to reduce the arrears just before half-time as he hooked his effort over the bar.
There was little let up from the home side at the start of the second half, as Donnelly struck the top of the crossbar with a free-kick 20 yards out on 47 minutes.
The third goal arrived nine minutes into the second half though, as Donnelly did get his name on the scoresheet for the 15th time this season.
He received the ball in a deep position, run at the defence before turning inside and producing a curling left footed effort from 20 yards out.
A mistake on 62 minutes allowed the visitors back into as his short backless was eventually picked up by Kym Nelson and slammed home.
With seven minutes remaining substitute Jonny Frazer picked up on another mistake, and almost brought his back into it but dragged his low shot wide of the far post.
In the main though, the hosts regained composure to hold on for a victory which eases them into the last four as the only remaining club outside the top tier.
Larne: Doughterty, Sule, Ramsey (McEleney), Kelly, McDaid, Donnelly (Hassin), Stuart (Scullion), Tilney, McNally, Cosgrove, Hughes
Unused subs: Devlin, Osei-Bonsu.
Ards: Johnston, Kerr, Byers, Taylor (McAleenan), M Kelly, McAllister (Strain), J Kelly, Mitchell, Tommons (Frazer), McClean, Nelson
Unused subs: Cherry, McLellan
Referee: Tony Clarke