Crusaders 2 - 1 Ballymena United

League - Irish League
Saturday, February 20th, 2021, 3:00 PM at Seaview
Referee: Jamie Robinson
Crusaders Ballymena United

Jamie McGonigle (43)
Paul Heatley (46)
Joseph McCready (12)

Team Managers
Stephen Baxter David Jeffrey

Starting Eleven
Jonathan Tuffey
BJ Burns
Aidan Wilson
Robert Weir
Philip Lowry
Jamie McGonigle
Declan Caddell
Jarlath O'Rourke
Jordan Owens
Paul Heatley
Daniel Larmour
Ross Glendinning
Conor Keeley
Jim Ervin
Joshua Kelly
Ross Redman
Trai Hume
Ben Wylie
James Knowles
Joseph McCready
Paul McElroy
Ryan Waide

Neil Shields
Chris Hegarty
Ben Kennedy
David Cushley
Adam Lecky
Michael Ruddy
Reece McGinley
Dylan Graham
Kavan Keenan
Tony Kane
Andrew McGrory
Sean Graham
Spencer Beattie
Tom Mathieson

Chris Hegarty for Daniel Larmour (46) Sean Graham for James Knowles (73)
Spencer Beattie for Jim Ervin (90)

Daniel Larmour (33)
Jarlath O'Rourke (85)
Paul Heatley (90)
Jim Ervin (83)

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Ross Glendinning (GK) 147 apps -
Ross Redman 17 apps -
Conor Keeley 5 apps -
Joshua Kelly 47 apps3 goals
Jim Ervin 257 apps3 goals
Trai Hume 16 apps1 goal
Ben Wylie 3 apps -
James Knowles 47 apps6 goals
Ryan Waide 14 apps -
Joseph McCready 14 apps2 goals
Paul McElroy 17 apps7 goals
Sean Graham (sub) 1 app (debut) -
Spencer Beattie (sub) 2 apps -

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Ben Wylie (18 years 241 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (35 years 269 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 290 days
Domestic Players:10 (90.91 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Dylan Graham (16 years 116 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (35 years 269 days)
Average Player Age:24 years 262 days
Domestic Players:17 (94.44 % of matchday squad)

Ballymena United's league struggles continued as they surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 to Crusaders at Seaview this afternoon.

There were a number of changes to the United side that lost out to Coleraine during the week, as Ross Glendinning replaced the suspended Jordan Williamson, while James Knowles, Ryan Waide and Joe McCready all came in to start as well.

In extremely strong winds in the capital, both sides unsurprisingly struggled to settle in the conditions, however United did have advantage of the wind. And that advantage almost paid dividends when the wind got Daniel Larmour in a spot of bother as he tried to shield the ball through to his goalkeeper, but Jonny Tuffey was out to smoother Paul McElroy who was almost in.

On 13 minutes Ryan Waide went close when his cross from the right ended up goal bound, coming off the base of the near post before being cleared, but a minute later The Sky Blues went ahead. Knowles had the time to whip a cross into the host's box and a mixture of wind and slack defending allowed the ball to land at the feet of McCready whose side footed finish from close range looped into the back of the net.

The Braidmen will have felt the goal was deserved with the away side pressing high and forcing The Crues into mistakes. Crusaders themselves had done little to bother Glendinning, with a long range effort from Robbie Weir easily gathered by the returning shot-stopper. After a fairly eventful opening 20 minutes, there was little to go on from then till the end of the half.

Surely looking to use the wind to their advantage, Ballymena still posed a good threat going forward, and were enjoying as much possession as their opponents, but neither could fashion a chance at goal.

When a chance did come, it fell Crusaders' way and it finished with the ball in United's goal as the home side, rather fortuitously, leveled. Initially it looked like Paul Heatley would score, only for some quality defending from Trai Hume to deny him.

However, Crusaders kept possession and eventually Weir teed up Jamie McGonigle on the edge of box, and what was surely a cross from McGonigle caught the wind and looped over Glendinning and in, to take the sides level into half time.

If the first half had ended badly for the Braidmen, the second half started equally as bad as Crusaders moved ahead inside two minutes of the restart. Billy Joe Burns' ball into the box was helped on by the boot of Jim Ervin and landed straight to the feet of Heatley who, with his back to goal, very neatly hooked the ball over himself, Glendinning and Conor Keeley on the line to put Crusaders in front.

Following on from the quick fire double either side of the break, Crusaders took firm control of the game and began to dominate play, as Ballymena struggled to get a real hold of the ball. However, despite having most of the ball, the North Belfast side weren't doing much to trouble Glendinning. When Glendinning was called into action, it was to come well outside his box to try and claim the ball, with it eventually falling to Heatley who tried his luck from just inside the Ballymena half, and the ball dropped just wide from goal.

The Braidmen's first chance of the half didn't come until the 68th minute, and it was from an unlikely source from open play. Good work from Josh Kelly allowed Hume to deliver an inviting cross into the box, where unexpectedly Keeley was waiting, before heading just wide. After the chance Ballymena brightened up and began to pose more of a threat in the Crusaders half. A change also allowed Sean Graham to come on for his Sky Blue debut, as he replaced Knowles.

Not long after his first chance, Keeley caused more problems for the hosts as he went close again, this time from a corner, as Ross Redman's ball found Keeley's head, but it was nodded off the line by Chris Hegarty.

Late on Heatley looked like he would go clear on two occasions to seal the deal for The Crues, but he was denied both times by outstanding defending from Hume, who impressed all afternoon, but it wasn't enough for United who went on to suffer a fourth straight defeat.

Match report written by Philip McPeake

Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1. Linfield 18 12 3 3 44 20 24 39
2. Larne 19 10 6 3 33 17 16 36
3. Crusaders 19 10 3 6 37 24 13 33
4. Coleraine 18 9 4 5 26 19 7 31
5. Cliftonville 20 8 5 7 30 24 6 29
6. Glentoran 16 6 6 4 26 15 11 24
7. Ballymena United 17 7 2 8 23 19 4 23
8. Glenavon 16 5 6 5 26 28 -2 21
9. Warrenpoint Town 17 4 5 8 15 29 -14 17
10. Carrick Rangers 16 3 3 10 17 36 -19 12
11. Portadown 17 2 6 9 18 38 -20 12
12. Dungannon Swifts 17 3 3 11 10 36 -26 12
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