BALLYMENA UTD 2 CRUSADERS 1
Ballymena United recovered from their midweek cup mauling by Linfield with a crucial Danske Bank Premiership victory over Crusaders at the Showgrounds
After a slow opening, Crusaders took the lead on 25 minutes with former Ballymena striker Gary McCutcheon marking his return to the Showgrounds with a typically stylish strike.
Keeper Dwayne Nelson’s miscued clearance fell at McCutcheon’s feet and waited until the keeper had committed himself before dinking a delightful chip over Nelson and three defenders guarding the goal-line.
Ballymena were level within three minutes with a goal which also owed a lot to a slice of misfortune. Crusaders defender Josh Robinson was the unfortunate recipient as he slipped while making a routine clearance, allowing Alan Davidson a clear run on goal to slot past Sean O’Neill.
Jordan Owens’ header for Crusaders clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over while at the other end, Aaron Stewart’s diving header from David Cushley’s corner went wide from point-blank range.
The second half was virtual one-way traffic towards the Ballymena penalty area as Crusaders laid siege towards the home side’s goal for long periods.
Paul Heatley was the tormentor-in-chief, the flying winger having no less that four efforts at goal, being denied twice by Nelson.
But United regained a foothold and after a good spell, took the lead when James Costello headed home from close range after O’Neill beat out Alan Davidson’s shot.
Crusaders spurned a glorious chance late on when Declan Caddell, completely unmarked in the box, headed wide from a Gareth McKeown long throw.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Kane, Munster, Stewart, Black, Taggart (sub Surgenor , Thompson, A Davidson, Cushley (sub Lowry 76), Ruddy (sub Teggart 73), Costello. Subs (not used): Rodgers, McCabe.
Crusaders: O’Neill, McKeown, Magowan, Robinson, McClean (sub Coates 85), Caddell, Watson, Heatley, Adamson, McCutcheon, Owens. Subs (not used): McBride, Rainey, Snoddy, Gibson.
Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).