Reds are spot on in Larmour game

Banbridge Town 1

Cliftonville win 4-3 on penalties

BANBRIDGE Town came within touching distance of securing their first victory in the annual Bob Larmour Memorial Cup contest only to be undone in a penalty shoot-out by Premiership Cliftonville on Saturday.

Dale Malone stroked home from the spot with 10 minutes to play but Liam Boyce's powerful equaliser sent the tie to a shoot-out, which the Reds won 4-3 to earn their fifth successive trophy triumph.

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Town started on the backfoot and only smart reactions from Gareth Buchanan stopped George McMullan's clever free-kick from creeping across the line and the Banbridge keeper was also on hand to block a close-range Kieran O'Connor effort.

Boyce dragged an attempt wide and Ryan Catney was also off target as Cliftonville – preparing for Thursday's Europa League showdown with CSKA Sofia – threatened to overpower Colin Malone's troops.

The hosts gradually began to find their feet, however, and, having seen the tie scoreless through to half-time, emerged after the interval with greater purpose and didn't afford Cliftonville the same kind of time and space in possession, enjoying greater forays further up the pitch.

A disputed handball by Ciaran Donaghy earned Banbridge a penalty but Timmy Grant saw his strike blocked by goalkeeper John Connolly and, just minutes later, Mark Patterson was chopped down inside the area to earn the visitors a spot-kick of their own.

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McMullan stepped up and, though his placed strike was heading for the top corner, Buchanan produced yet another excellent stop to maintain the stalemate.

Town were grateful to their keeper again on 72 minutes when he held firm after Chris Scannell had sprung the offside trap and, though Buchanan was helpless to do anything about Ciaran Caldwell's follow-up, the midfielder lashed his effort high and wide.

Another handball by Donaghy led to the third penalty of the match and this time Malone – who had shot wide from point-blank range just minutes earlier – assumed responsibility, sending Connolly the wrong way to put Town in front.

The goal seemed to irk Cliftonville and they immediately returned to their early-game form with O'Connor and McMullan each sending efforts off target before a surging Aaron Smyth run saw him exchange passes with the lively McMullan before sending Boyce clear and he made no mistake to level things.

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Indeed, the Reds might have won the Cup in normal time but saw an excess of late pressure go unrewarded, thanks largely to the exploits of the impressive Buchanan, who ensured that penalties would settle the issue.

Though he would save Boyce's kick, Banbridge's shot-stopper could do nothing about Cliftonville's other efforts as Town – who missed their first two – were sent to a 4-3 defeat.