It just wasn’t to be for Larne in the County Antrim Shield semi-final as they went down 3-2 in extra-time to Ballymena United.
The Premier League side scored a goal in the final minute of normal time to level things up, then a goal one minute from the end of extra-time proved to be the winner.
“The boys carried out everything that was asked of them and it is a real sickener to get sucker-punched twice,” said manager Davy McAlinden. “I didn’t think we got the rub of the green at all with the decisions tonight, including a clear penalty decision.
“We were immense all over the park and what we need to do is recover from this and take that type of performance into our league games.”
The first half was an even affair with the best chance falling to the visitors. The ball was cut back to Allan Jenkins, his shot was on target but Paddy Flood stretched to tip it away.
Larne were then denied what looked like a certain penalty when Kevin Bradley was upended in the box but the officials waved play on.
With 51 minutes gone, James McCabe carved out an opening for Guillaume Keke but his shot drifted wide of the target.
Twenty minutes later United had a chance to go in front when the ball fell to Jenkins but another brilliant save from Flood kept it out.
The Reds then took the lead 18 minutes from time. A free-kick from Gerald Gillan fell to Stuart McMullan wide on the right and his shot sailed into the top corner of the net, much to the delight of the home support.
There was a minute left on the clock when the ball broke to Ballymena’s Willie Faulkner on the right flank. He couldn’t have hit his shot any better, beating Flood at the far post.
Only one minute of extra-time had elapsed when United got their noses in front thanks to substitute Darren Henderson.
But five minutes later Larne were level. A long throw from Bradley caused problems in the Ballymena defence and Conall McGrandles dived to head the ball home.
Penalties looked to be on the cards as the time ticked away but a slip in the home defence was pounced upon by David Cushley who gave Flood no chance to seal the victory for United.
Larne: Flood, Bradley, Smith, McClean, Rodgers, McGrandles, McMullan, Gillan, Donnelly (McGonnell 83), McCabe, Keke. Subs not used: Todd, E.Gillan, McManus, Stitt.
Ballymena United: Blayney, Erwin Taylor, Rodgers, McBride, Faulkner, Thompson, Kane, Cushley, Jenkins, Tipton. Subs: Henderson, Kane, Ruddy, Ferguson, McVey.
Referee: R. Dunlop (Carrick)