Ballymena United 1
Crusaders 2
League (NIFL Premiership)

Ballymena United
1 - 2

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, August 11th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,703
7:45 PM Kick-off

Ryan Waide (90)
Adam Lecky (16)
Jarlath O'Rourke (29)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Stephen Baxter

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
6. Colin Coates
11. Steven McCullough
24. Jordan McMullan
5. Scot Whiteside
8. Sean Graham
14. John McGuigan
2. Kym Nelson
30. Michael Place
27. Jonathan McMurray
10. Ryan Waide
Jonathan Tuffey .33
Jimmy Callacher .4
Robert Weir .6
Philip Lowry .7
Ben Kennedy .8
Adam Lecky .9
Jordan Forsythe .14
Jarlath O'Rourke .15
Daniel Larmour .20
Paul Heatley .22
Rory McKeown .23

26. Sam Johnston
22. Caleb Crawford
20. TJ Murray
18. Jordan Gibson
21. Lewis Tennant
12. Kenny Kane
15. Fiontan O'Boyle
Jordan Williamson .1
James Teelan .11
Jordan Owens .18
Jude Winchester .19
Mal Smith .21
Ross Clarke .25
Lloyd Anderson .42

Jordan Gibson for Jonathan McMurray (65)
TJ Murray for John McGuigan (65)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Jordan McMullan (82)
Lewis Tennant for Sean Graham (90)
Jordan Owens for Adam Lecky (82)
Jude Winchester for Ben Kennedy (82)
James Teelan for Paul Heatley (90)

John McGuigan (31)
Scot Whiteside (79)

Red Cards
Colin Coates (60)
Match Officials

Tim Marshall (Referee)
Andrew Nethery & Adam Jeffrey (Assistants)
Andrew Davey (Fourth Official)

Match Report

10-MAN Ballymena United got off to a losing start at The Showgrounds in their first game on Warden Street this season after a 2-1 defeat to Crusaders on Friday evening.

It was Jim Ervin's first game in charge of the Sky Blues at home and he made two changes from the opening day defeat to Coleraine a week ago, as Kym Nelson and Jordan McMullan came in for Alex Gawne and Andrew McGrory.

This was the first meeting between the sides since May's forgettable Irish Cup final, but similarly to three months ago, Crusaders started well on top. Inside a couple of minutes Ben Kennedy latched onto a through ball only to be denied by a good Sean O'Neill stop, before Paul Heatley tested O'Neill twice, with the second save a routine one, but the first a terrific one-handed stop. However, United could only rely on O'Neill for so long and on sixteen minutes the Crues deservedly went ahead. A decent move ended with Ben Kennedy crossing for Philip Lowry, but when he failed to get a clean contact the ball went on through to Adam Lecky at the back post, and unmarked he fired into the roof of the net.

The Braidmen slowly started to work their way into the game following Lecky's opener and they weren't a million miles away from levelling against the run of play when McMullan won the ball back high and it fell to Johnny McMurray, whose shot from distance was dragged just wide.

A minute after that McMurray chance, United's hopes of getting back into things took a hit via a second Crusaders goal. The goal wasn't too dissimilar to the first as this time Lecky crossed to the back post for Heatley, who laid it off to Jarlath O'Rourke, and it was again far too easy with Jarlath O'Rourke in acres of space, and he couldn't miss from six yards out.

Ballymena were being reduced to sighters as they just couldn't trouble the visitor's box, but after McMurray's earlier shot, Steven McCullough caught everyone by surprise as he shot from all of thirty yards, only for it to dip just wide.

Crusaders finished strongly in the final five minutes of the half and it should've been three when Heatley was slipped in, but O'Neill produced a stunning save, before the same man then rounded the 'keeper to score, but the flag was up, as a difficult half ended 0-2.

The second half eventually gave off the feel of a pre-season friendly, but early on United started well as McMurray took a charge down the left-hand side, but with no help he had to go it alone and fired over from the top of the box. A couple of minutes later the hosts couldn't have come closer to levelling when Colin Coates met a McCullough corner, but it was somehow scrambled off the line either by a block or sublime Jonny Tuffey save.

Ten minutes after almost scoring a second in as many games, Coates turned United's night from bad to worse as the skipper received a straight red card for a heavy challenge on Heatley close to the touchline, with Tim Marshall's mind made up quickly on the colour of card for a poor challenge.

With Ballymena huffing and puffing but offering virtually nothing and Crusaders looking more than comfortable with a two goal and one man lead, the final half hour was almost actionless. In amongst four changes, TJ Murray and Fiontan O'Boyle got their first taste of the home support, though in-between those subs Crusaders should've had a third.

O'Rourke danced his way into the box before putting the ball on a plate for Lowry in the middle of the box, but somehow O'Neill pulled off the last of countless cracking saves to keep it to 2-0.

In added time McCullough put a free kick in a good position just over, but with one of the last kicks of the ball Ballymena grabbed a consolation goal thanks to a stunner from Ryan Waide. McCullough took Ballymena forward and found Jordan Gibson who found Waide, and from a good twenty yards out he spun and rocketed a glorious effort in off the crossbar, but it was nothing more than a tidy footnote to a tough night, as United start the season with back-to-back 2-1 defeats.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at August 11th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 2 - 65 -
Colin Coates37 2121
Steven McCullough28 2 - 2118
Jordan McMullan20 1 - 4 -
Scot Whiteside26 2 - 1001
Sean Graham22 2 - 733
John McGuigan29 2 - 2 -
Kym Nelson28 2 - 575
Michael Place25 2 - 626
Jonathan McMurray28 2 - 10032
Ryan Waide23 2111816
TJ Murray (sub)28 2 - 2 -
Jordan Gibson (sub)28 1 - 444
Lewis Tennant (sub)18 1 - 2 -
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)18 2 - 2 -

League Table (as at August 11th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Coleraine 2 2 0 0 6
2. Larne 2 1 1 0 4
3. Loughgall 2 1 0 1 3
4. Crusaders 1 1 0 0 3
5. Glentoran 2 1 0 1 3
6. Dungannon 1 0 1 0 1
7. Glenavon 1 0 0 1 0
8. BALLYMENA 2 0 0 2 0
9. Newry 1 0 0 1 0