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Three-style Reds

Cliftonville 3-0 Ballymena United

Cliftonville powered their way into the League Cup Final with a 3-0 victory over Ballymena United at Solitude this evening.

Ryan Curran’s first-half double was added to by a Joe Gormley strike as the Reds booked progress to March’s decider with Coleraine.

The hosts – whose starting XI replicated the side that ended Saturday’s clash with Portadown – set about their task from early on and enjoyed long spells of possession, although a well-drilled Sky Blues set-up ensured that goalkeeper Jordan Williamson was never really tested.

That all changed on 27 minutes, however, when Jonny Addis’ wonderful interception on Ryan Waide’s attempted throughball to Leroy Millar set the wheels in motion on the move that led to the opening goal.

Gormley was played into possession on the right flank and, though he completely miscued his attempted cross, the ball rolled favourably for Paul O’Neill only for him to likewise miss his kick, allowing Curran to sweep home from close range behind him.

It was 2-0 just before the break when O’Neill’s flick-on tempted Gormley into chasing down a lost cause and, when he was brought down by Williamson, referee Andrew Davey awarded a penalty which Curran stepped up to convert.

There was no let-up from Cliftonville after the break and they made sure of things just seven minutes after the restart when Levi Ives teed Gormley up inside the box and his unorthodox strike proved too much for Williamson to deal with.

United threatened to set up an interesting finale when Leroy Millar rose to meet Ross Redman’s corner kick but he sent his header wide and the Reds comfortably negotiated the rest of the evening to book their first League Cup Final berth since 2016.

Cliftonville: McNicholas, McDermott, Ives, C Curran (Kearns, 86 mins), R Curran, O’Neill (Donnelly, 75 mins), McDonagh, Lowe, Addis (Coates, 88 mins), Gormley, Turner (Harney, 88 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, Foster, Doherty.