Ballymena United 1
Crusaders 4
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
1 - 4
Crusaders 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, August 11th, 2017
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,842
7:45 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
Matthew Shevlin (55)
Paul Heatley (62)
Paul Heatley (78)
Colin Coates (81)
Declan Caddell (90)

Team Managers
David Jeffrey
Stephen Baxter

Starting Eleven
1. Ross Glendinning
21. Jim Ervin
5. Jonathan Flynn
2. Tony Kane
4. Kyle Owens
6. Michael Gault
11. Conor McCloskey
23. Leroy Millar
10. Kevin Braniff
26. Joseph McKinney
16. Matthew Shevlin
Brian Jensen .21
Sean Ward .8
BJ Burns .2
Howard Beverland .4
Colin Coates .6
Rodney Brown .34
Declan Caddell .12
Phillip Lowry .7
Paul Heatley .22
Jordan Owens .18
Gavin Whyte .23

Bench
18. Conor Brennan
3. Emmet Friars
24. Francis McCaffrey
7. Gary Thompson
9. Cathair Friel
Mark McChrystal .3
Michael Carvill .10
David Cushley .11
Jordan Forsythe .14
Matthew Snoddy .19

Substitutions
Emmet Friars for Leroy Millar (71)
Cathair Friel for Matthew Shevlin (85)
Jordan Forsythe for Sean Ward (60)
David Cushley for Jordan Owens (90)

Cautions
Michael Gault (33)
Jim Ervin (61)
Howard Beverland (58)

Red Cards
Kyle Owens (63)
None.
Match Officials

Keith Kennedy (Referee)
Stephen Donaldson & Kristian Hanna (Assistants)
Ken Gibbons (Fourth Official)




Match Report


Ballymena United suffered defeat on the opening day of the new season, falling to a 4-1 home defeat to Crusaders.

The 2017/18 Danske Bank Premiership season got underway at The Showgrounds in front of a large Sky Blue support. On a much improved surface at The Showgrounds it was Crusaders who created the first chance. Declan Caddell had time to turn and shoot in the box but blasted well over. 13 minutes in Paul Heatley supplied Gavin Whyte with a good chance but the winger's shot across goal missed the target by some distance.

Whyte was presented with another great chance five minutes later when Ballymena new boy Michael Gault was dispossessed 20 yards out, but Whyte again dragged it wide. Ballymena's first chance came on 18 minutes when Leroy Millar rifled a shot from all of 30 yards towards the top right corner, only for Crues debutant 'keeper and ex-Burnley star Brian Jensen to tip it over the bar with a wonderful save. Always a danger in the air, Jordan Owens out-jumped his brother Kyle on the half hour mark from a corner, but his header could only find the side netting.

Matthew Shevlin was unlucky not to break the deadlock shortly after when a pacy Jim Ervin cross came his way, but the striker didn't manage to get a touch on the ball. From a Tony Kane corner Kyle Owens got up highest to meet the ball but his header went straight into the arms of Jensen. Inside the final 5 minutes of the half, Billy Joe Burns got past Joe McKinney and cut inside for a shot, but couldn't curl the ball inside the Sky Blue's post as the half ended goalless.

The second half made up for the lack of goals in the first 45 minutes with 5 second half strikes. 5 minutes in Whyte had yet another great chance to score for the visitors when he broke through, but yet again he couldn't guide the ball into the bottom corner. Similar to his chance in the first half, Shevlin again couldn't quite get a contact on a cross when a quick Ballymena free kick found Braniff who crossed for Shevlin, who couldn't get the ball towards goal.

The young forward didn't have trouble finding the net on 55 minutes when he put United in front with the first goal of the new season. Conor McCloskey launched a long throw-in into the box and Owens beat Jensen to the ball, heading it on for Matthew Shevlin who fired home from close range.

The lead lasted all of 6 minutes when a lively Paul Heatley equalised for the Crues. A cross caused Ross Glendinning problems as he failed to deal with the ball and Philip Lowry was able to head the ball back into Heatley who hit the ball on the turn past Glendinning to level.

The real turning point of the evening came on 63 minutes when Ballymena were reduced to 10 men, with Kyle Owens seeing red. A misplaced Gault pass sent Heatley through and as the last man Owens brought him down, resulting in a straight red for Owens after an impressive first half.

United's problems deepened further when David Jeffrey was forced into a change with Leroy Millar coming off injured. He was replaced by Emmet Friars, who came on for his competitive debut. Paul Heatley could've gave the visitors the lead on 76 minutes when he worked himself space to shoot, but he couldn't keep the ball below the crossbar. However 3 minutes later United's resolve was finally broken as Paul Heatley netted his second with a wonderful finish. The ball dropped to Heatley 20 yards out and he took the ball down on his chest before hitting first time into the top left corner, leaving Glendinning no chance of stopping it.

It was almost 3 straight away when Rodney Brown had a go from long range. His low, drilled shot was spilled by Glendinning but Johnny Flynn was on hand to clear. On 82 minutes it was 3 when Crusaders captain Colin Coates headed home. Brown headed the ball back into the 6 yard box after the ball was initially cleared and it was met by Coates who headed the ball through a sea of Sky Blue and past Glendinning.

Inside the 3 minutes of added time, Crusaders added more misery to Ballymena's night when they found a fourth. Whyte whipped a dangerous cross in from the right to the head of substitute Jordan Forsythe who made no mistake in finding the back of the net to condemn Ballymena to a disappointing result to start the season.

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



Squad Statistics (as at August 11th, 2017)


2017-2018 All Time
Age
Ross Glendinning (GK)24 3 - 33 -
Jim Ervin32 2 - 1292
Jonathan Flynn27 3 - 393
Tony Kane29 3 - 23633
Kyle Owens25 2 - 487
Michael Gault34 3 - 3 -
Conor McCloskey25 3 - 356
Leroy Millar21 3 - 622
Kevin Braniff34 3 - 133
Joseph McKinney23 3 - 181
Matthew Shevlin18 11346
Emmet Friars (sub)31 3 - 3 -
Cathair Friel (sub)24 3 - 4823



League Table (as at August 11th, 2017)


Pld W D L +/- Pts

* - Table split into two divisions of six.