Linfield hit six past Ballymena United in Cup

LINFIELD steamrollered their way into the semi-finals of the IRN-BRU League Cup with a power-packed display at the Showgrounds.

The Blues fired five first half goals past a shell-shocked Ballymena to shatter the Sky Blues’ unbeaten home record, which had stretched back to February.

The opening stages gave no indication of the carnage that lay in store as Ballymena started with the confidence of a team which had lost only twice in their previous 30 games.

But when Peter Thompson headed the Blues in front, Glenn Ferguson’s side simply never recovered as Linfield avenged their opening day league defeat the Warden Street venue in some style.

Keeper Dwayne Nelson produced a fine save on 20 minutes, diving low to keep out Johnny Black’s blockbuster of a free kick from 25 yards with James McCabe hacking the ball to safety.

It proved to be a temporary reprieve, however, as from Michael Carvill’s resultant corner kick, Thompson moved to the near post to glance a stooping header past Nelson.

Ballymena clearly hadn’t paid heed to the threat of Black’s earlier free kick and when the full-back brushed aside McCabe to get to a loose ball on the half hour, he took one step before arrowing a 25-yard drive beyond the helpless Nelson.

Linfield unlocked the home defence once again five minutes later when Carvill cut inside from the left flank and played a neat one-two with Mark McAllister on the edge of the area before slotting past the hopelessly exposed Nelson.

And with Ballymena reeling, the Blues took full advantage to score a fourth goal two minutes later. Defender Davy Munster had done brilliantly to block McAllister’s goalbound shot but as the ball bounced clear, Black drove the ball back toward goal for Brian McCaul to divert it into the net from close range.

It should have been five a minute later when Munster’s headed back-pass fell miles short of its target but as Thompson bore down on goal, he skewed his shot high and wide.

The onslaught continued as McAllister crossed from the right for McCaul to head off the underside of the crossbar but the midfielder wasn’t to be denied, scoring his second on the stroke of half-time after Carvill had dropped a perfectly-measured cross onto his head.

Ballymena came more into the game after the break with Alan Davidson extending Alan Blayney for the first time with a couple of long range efforts which the keeper comfortably dealt with.

Blayney was determined to keep a clean sheet and he produced a smart save at his near post to turn another Alan Davidson effort behind.

Instead it was Linfield who had the final say with a sixth goal with six minutes left, when Jamie Mulgrew’s cross from the left was met with a brilliant volley by substitute Gary Browne.