Ballymena United 0
Crusaders 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
0 - 0
Crusaders 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, February 25th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,051
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
None. None.

Team Managers
David Jeffrey
Stephen Baxter

Starting Eleven
1. Jordan Williamson
11. Steven McCullough
20. Robert McVarnock
5. Scot Whiteside
4. Douglas Wilson
24. Sean Graham
14. Jack Henderson
8. Joshua Kelly
2. Kym Nelson
12. Kenny Kane
7. David McDaid
Jonathan Tuffey .33
BJ Burns .2
Joshua Robinson .4
Philip Lowry .7
Adam Lecky .9
Dean Ebbe .10
Jordan Forsythe .14
Daniel Larmour .20
Paul Heatley .22
Rory McKeown .23
Ross Clarke .25

Bench
35. Craig Farquhar
3. Ross Redman
18. Jordan Gibson
17. Andrew McGrory
30. Michael Place
25. George Tipton
10. Ryan Waide
Tom Murphy .1
Chris Hegarty .3
Declan Caddell .12
Cameron Stewart .16
Jude Winchester .19
Gary Thompson .21
Jay Boyd .28

Substitutions
Craig Farquhar for Douglas Wilson (29)
Declan Caddell for Dean Ebbe (59)
Jude Winchester for Ross Clarke (59)

Cautions
Douglas Wilson (17)
Kym Nelson (84)
Daniel Larmour (76)
Philip Lowry (85)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Steven Gregg (Referee)
Kristian Hanna & Shane Geary (Assistants)
Keith Kennedy (Fourth Official)




Match Report


A much improved Ballymena United deserved at the very least the point they got as they played out an entertaining 0-0 stalemate with Crusaders at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

After a disappointing outing during the week in the home defeat to Larne, there were two changes to the United XI, with Kenneth Kane and Robert McVarnock getting the nod to start ahead of Ryan Waide and Michael Place.

The hosts came into this one on a real poor run of form in terms of both points and goals and came up a Crusaders team still with a strong eye on the title, but struggling for form on the road, and it led to an even encounter throughout.

The Braidmen started well and early sighters from distance via Kane and David McDaid gave Johnny Tuffey some easy, but early work. There was little to split the team's possession wise as the half went on, but good chances weren't free flowing and the visitor's first close shave didn't come until almost half an hour in. A cross was punched clear by Jordan Williamson only as far as Dean Ebbe just outside the box, but his low, drilled shot was well saved by Williamson.

On the half hour mark Ballymena were forced into an early change, as Douglas Wilson, who had already been down for treatment a few minutes beforehand, was unable to continue. He was replaced by Craig Farquhar, who was making just his second league appearance for the Sky Blues, but he proceeded to put in an assured display.

As Crusaders began to become more of a threat, Philip Lowry thought he'd added yet another goal to his tally this season when he finished off a stunning team goal in and around the box, but his joy was short lived as the flag went up for offside. That no goal marked the start of some real Crues pressure that the hosts had to try and ride out for the first time all afternoon, and after Billy Joe Burns took advantage of some ropey defending to fire a shot just wide of the far post, before Paul Heatley broke from the halfway line on a solo run, only to hit the side netting.

Another chance came Heatley's way before the break, but he spun and hit straight at Williamson, as a tight and even half ended goalless.

The second half was a much more chance packed and entertaining affair as both sides saw chances come and go to break the deadlock. After a quiet opening ten minutes in comparison to the remainder of the game, another chance came for Heatley and this time it was big one. A long ball down the left was brought out of the sky by the winger who honed in on goal, only to see a weak effort gathered by Williamson.

After a strong strike from Lowry on the edge of the box was well held by Williamson, the Braidmen looked like they might be in for a shot at an opener when great work from Sean Graham in the middle saw him slide a ball through for McDaid, but Tuffey was out just a split second quicker to gather the ball before McDaid took it round him.

As a bit of an end-to-end encounter began to ensue, straight up the other end Crusaders had penalty appeals fall on deaf ears when Heatley took a tumble in the box, before a disaster at the back almost handed Crusaders a goal.

After a couple of poor clearances, Joshua Kelly's header back towards his own goal was nowhere near his goalkeeper, allowing Heatley again to pounce, but he was denied by a sensational fingertip stop from Williamson. After that scare, Ballymena went back about their business going forward, and embarked on a really strong period of play that had been missing from most of their recent games.

A lovely piece of link up play from the front two of Kane and McDaid, both of whom were growing into the game well, ended with McDaid firing a ball across goal in the hope of finding Kane at the back post, but he arrived half a second too late as the ball agonisingly fizzed past his outstretched boot. After that chance, it was Crusaders' turn to almost gift their opponents a goal when a spot of hot potato saw Tuffey take what seemed like an endless amount of attempts to hold onto a corner, but it just wouldn't quite fall for a man in Sky Blue, before a foul was eventually given on the 'keeper.

In the middle of United's pressure, Lowry picked up on a loose ball and had a pop from distance, producing another quality save out of Williamson, but with nine minutes to go, Ballymena's biggest moment of the match came for McDaid. Jack Henderson, who had put in a really good shift all day in the middle, slipped McDaid in with an inch perfect through ball, and after McDaid raced onto it, the home end waited with anticipation, only for his strike across the goal to be kept out by a Tuffey save from the very top drawer.

Three minutes later McDaid had another chance to find a late winner, when a corner dropped to him on the edge, but after doing well to get his shot through a crowded box, Tuffey saved again.

In the final five minutes of a non-stop second half, it was the away side who ended the game with a late spell. Yet another shot from Heatley, who must've had double figures in terms of efforts, was smashed off the line by Kym Nelson, but his clearance inadvertently hit Jude Winchester and flew just wide, in what would've been a freak goal to resolve a close match up.

In added time the Crues broke quickly off a Ballymena attack to try and win it on the counter, but it ended with Burns striking at Williamson, as United, whilst again failing to hit the back of the net, at times did everything but score in a game were no one could argue with a sharing of the points, but United certainly wouldn't have been undeserving of all three in a much better afternoon's work.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (www.ballymenaunitedfc.com)



Squad Statistics (as at February 25th, 2023)


2022-2023 All Time
Age
Jordan Williamson (GK)27 8 - 77 -
Steven McCullough28 30 - 2008
Robert McVarnock23 8 - 8 -
Scot Whiteside25 32 - 871
Douglas Wilson28 162353
Sean Graham22 233613
Jack Henderson22 261461
Joshua Kelly23 3531227
Kym Nelson27 283464
Kenny Kane23 251878
David McDaid32 33103310
Craig Farquhar (sub)19 2 - 2 -



League Table (as at February 25th, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 30 21 5 4 68
2. Cliftonville 30 19 5 6 62
3. Linfield 30 19 4 7 61
4. Crusaders 30 17 6 7 57
5. Coleraine 30 16 6 8 54
6. Glentoran 27 16 3 8 51
7. BALLYMENA 29 9 5 15 32
8. Carrick 28 9 4 15 31
9. Glenavon 28 7 7 14 28
10. Newry 29 7 2 20 23
11. Dungannon 30 6 2 22 20
12. Portadown 29 3 3 23 12