As responses to a drubbing go, Ballymena United’s could not have been better timed.
After their midweek cup mauling by Linfield, the Sky Blues regained their self-respect and, more importantly, three precious points which take them to within two points of second place in an intriguing Danske Bank Premiership campaign.
United made Crusaders pay for their wastefulness in front of goal by snapping up their chances when they came along.
“We went out positively and, going a goal down after being dumped six during the week, the players could have very easily crumbled but they stood up to be counted,” said United boss Glenn Ferguson.
“I’m particularly happy with the two centre-backs and two full-backs because they came under a lot of pressure but we won a lot of headers and second balls.
“Crusaders had a couple of half-chances that we dealt with but over the course of the game, particularly the last 10 or 15 minutes, when they went three at the back, we created a lot of chances - I’m just disappointed we didn’t score another goal.”
Gary McCutcheon marked his return to the Showgrounds by putting Crusaders ahead with a typically sumptuous finish, chipping the ball over three defenders guarding the goal after Nelson’s miscued clearance had fallen at his feet.
Sadly for the Crues, his team-mate Josh Robinson didn’t show such sure-footedness three minutes later, the youngster’s unfortunate loss of balance turning a routine defensive situation into an equaliser for Alan Davidson.
Davidson was again involved in United’s winner when his shot from a short corner was beaten out by Sean O’Neill but only onto the head of James Costello, who headed home from close range.