On Tuesday night Linfield head to the Showgrounds to face hosts Ballymena United FC in this twice rearranged CAS semi-final tie (7.45pm ko, played to a finish on the night). The winners will go on to meet holders Crusaders in the Final of the competition (5th Feb). The two 'Blues' have already met twice in IPL this season and both recorded home wins by the same 2-1 scoreline.
At the weekend Linfield overcame a brave challenge from visitors Ballyclare Comrades in the fifth round of the Tennent's Irish Cup at a bitterly cold Windsor Park. This was a scrappy, disjointed game with both teams guilty of making far too many unforced errors. The tie was to be finally settled in the second half when Joel Cooper scored with a header nodded home from close range. The Blues may well have not been at their best but in the end it was job done against a Comrades side who battled hard for the whole ninety minutes. Linfield will now meet Crusaders at home in the 6th round of the competition (2nd Feb).
Ballymena also progressed into the next round of the Irish Cup when they travelled to Wilgar Park in East Belfast and defeated Championship 1 side Dundela (3-1). The Sky Blues have already had a record breaking season to remember under the leadership of experienced manager David Jeffrey. The Braidmen have emerged from an indifferent start to the league campaign to now head into the New Year as one of the main contenders to lift the Gibson Cup trophy. After a disappointing defeat to Crusaders in the 2018 CAS Final (2-4), the Ballymena players will be relishing the opportunity to make it through to once again cross swords on the big stage with the Shore Road outfit.
David will be demanding a much improved performance from his players as they strive to reach a second domestic cup final of the season. The ever present legion of travelling Linfield supporters will need to raise the ante from the stands and get right behind their team. With the stakes raised high for both teams it will surely turn out to be a keenly contested and fiercely competative cup tie. A huge, but not insurmountable task lies ahead for the Blues at a stadium which has become a bit of a fortress for the home side over the past three months. Hopefully though, the Linfield supporters will be leaving the Showgrounds with the CAS Final date pencilled in the diary. COYB!