Crusaders 1 - 0 Ballymena United

League - NIFL Premiership
Friday, April 2nd, 2021, 7:30 PM at Ballymena Showgrounds
Referee: Lee Tavinder
Crusaders Ballymena United

Aidan Wilson (75) None.

Team Managers
Stephen Baxter David Jeffrey

Starting Eleven
Sean O'Neill
BJ Burns
Aidan Wilson
Robert Weir
Philip Lowry
Jamie McGonigle
Jordan Forsythe
Jarlath O'Rourke
Adam Lecky
Rodney Brown
Ross Clarke
Jordan Williamson
Jonathan Addis
Joshua Kelly
Ross Redman
Trai Hume
Ben Wylie
James Knowles
Owen McKeown
Ryan Harpur
Joseph McCready
Ryan Waide

Jonathan Tuffey
David Cushley
Declan Caddell
Michael Ruddy
Jordan Owens
Gary Thompson
Daniel Larmour
Dylan Graham
Craig Farquhar
Jim Ervin
Tony Kane
Spencer Beattie
Paul McElroy
Shay McCartan

Jordan Owens for Ross Clarke (64)
Declan Caddell for Jordan Forsythe (90)
Paul McElroy for Joseph McCready (61)
Shay McCartan for James Knowles (61)
Tony Kane for Ryan Harpur (86)

Rodney Brown (78) None.

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Jordan Williamson (GK) 34 apps -
Jonathan Addis 96 apps5 goals
Ross Redman 29 apps2 goals
Trai Hume 26 apps2 goals
Joshua Kelly 59 apps4 goals
Ben Wylie 12 apps -
Owen McKeown 7 apps -
Ryan Harpur 35 apps2 goals
James Knowles 52 apps6 goals
Joseph McCready 24 apps3 goals
Ryan Waide 26 apps1 goal
Tony Kane (sub) 357 apps50 goals
Paul McElroy (sub) 29 apps10 goals
Shay McCartan (sub) 27 apps10 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Ben Wylie (18 years 282 days)
Oldest Player:Ryan Harpur (32 years 130 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 224 days
Domestic Players:11 (100.00 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Dylan Graham (16 years 157 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (35 years 310 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 171 days
Domestic Players:18 (100.00 % of matchday squad)

Ballymena United's long unbeaten run ended after a 1-0 defeat to Crusaders at the Showgrounds on Friday evening.

With the fixtures not letting up, United freshened things with five changes to Tuesday night's winning side, including another change in goal as Jordan Williamson, already struggling with an injury, replaced the injured Ross Glendinning.

The first half was a cagey affair throughout, but it was a half dominated by Crusaders in terms of possession. There was little action at either end for the BBC live cameras to pick up in the opening fifteen minutes, but despite the Crues' possession Ballymena went the closest first as Sean O'Neill denied Ben Wylie.

Despite carrying an injury, Williamson put in an inspired performance for ninety minutes, and his first save came as he got down low to keep out Philip Lowry striking on the turn. Crusaders' pressure kept up but United did well to limit the chances to very little, but after Jordan Forsythe had powered a header wide from a corner, the visitors couldn't have come closer as Lowry rattled the crossbar after meeting a Jamie McGonigle cross.

Those chances came in a five minute spell that was by far the liveliest of a half that didn't real get going, as soon after Crusaders had a penalty appeal waved away when Adam Lecky went down in the box. At the other end, the Sky Blues had their best chance of the half by some distance when Owen McKeown's cross dropped to Ryan Waide, who smashed it towards goal but was stopped by a fine O'Neill save, as a good defensive shift from United got them into the break level.

Ballymena came out strong for the second half and had the better of it for the first ten minutes. Josh Kelly worked O'Neill early on with a volley from outside the box, but it was easy pickings for the former Ballymena 'keeper. A minute later O'Neill pulled off a far bigger save as Waide drilled an effort at the back post, and after O'Neill's top drawer save Ryan Harpur tapped the ball home, but it was ruled out for offside.

Looking to take advantage of the increased possession, David Jeffrey turned to Shay McCartan and Paul McElroy from the bench, and it looked like a third substitute would be needed when Williamson required treatment after some goalkeeping and defensive heroics kept the Crues at bay.

McGonigle's shot across goal was fantastically saved by the hand of Williamson, with the rebound from Forsythe blocked on the line by skipper Jonny Addis, as Ballymena somehow survived. With Williamson clearly struggling and down hurt from the save, sixteen year old goalkeeper Dylan Graham got ready to come on for his debut, but Williamson got up and soldiered on.

It marked the turning point in the half as Crusaders regained control. Billy Joe Burns put a good chance wide from a corner before Williamson did superbly again to tip a Forsythe shot over. The hosts resistance was finally broken with fifteen minutes left as Aidan Wilson, who scored against Portadown on Tuesday evening, put Crusaders in front. A long ball forward was touched on to Lecky who slid in Wilson, and the centre half finished well as he toe-poked the ball into the bottom corner.

Just three minutes after falling behind Ballymena were handed the perfect chance to quickly level when McCartan's well hit and goal-bound shot was blocked by the arm of Rodney Brown, with a penalty given, but only yellow shown. McElroy, who joined Ballymena from Crusaders in October, stepped up, but it was agony for the home side as his spot kick went wide off the base of the post.

In the closing stages it was Crusaders who looked the more likely as Ballymena failed to really muster up one last chance to draw level. First, Jordan Owens headed a big chance onto the roof of the net. Owens then looked set to kill the game off from close range, but McKeown did brilliantly to cut the ball out, however, in the end Ballymena were left to rue McElroy's penalty miss as a valiant effort ended in defeat to end the unbeaten streak at ten.

Match report written by Philip McPeake

Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1. Linfield 28 19 3 6 67 28 39 60
2. Coleraine 27 16 5 6 42 25 17 53
3. Glentoran 26 14 6 6 45 22 23 48
4. Larne 27 12 9 6 42 28 14 45
5. Ballymena United 29 13 6 10 44 31 13 45
6. Crusaders 29 14 3 12 48 36 12 45
7. Cliftonville 27 12 7 8 38 30 8 43
8. Glenavon 27 10 9 8 44 44 0 39
9. Warrenpoint Town 26 6 8 12 27 45 -18 26
10. Portadown 26 4 6 16 30 55 -25 18
11. Carrick Rangers 27 4 5 18 26 65 -39 17
12. Dungannon Swifts 27 4 3 20 17 61 -44 15
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