Danske Bank Premiership
Ards 2, Crusaders 4
Champions Crusaders wiped out a two-goal deficit to record a vital 4-2 victory over Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena.
The Red & Blues lead 2-0 after 15 minutes before goals from Paul Heatley, Declan Caddell and an unfortunate own goal from Emmet Friars gave Stephen Baxter’s men a vital win.
Heatley added a fourth in stoppage time, 10 minutes after Ards were reduced to 10 men, after Craig McMillen hit out at Andy Mitchell.
Before Ards took the lead, Crusaders hit the woodwork on two occasions. Jordan Owens smashed a shot against the crossbar in the seventh minute and Paul Heatley hitting the post in the ninth.
As the half progressed Ards began to find their feet. In the 13th minute they were awarded a penalty by referee Steven Taylor who adjudged left-back Craig McClean to have blocked Joe McKinney’s cross with his arm.
Ards full-back Craig McMillen stroked the ball into the bottom corner, even though Crues goalkeeper Sean O’Neill got a hand to the ball.
The ‘Red & Blues’ had their second goal in the 17th minute. McKinney threaded the ball into the path of Greg Hall who put a dangerous cross into the Crues box. Ross Arthurs’ knocked the ball down which allowed Carl McComb to hook the ball in from the edge of the six-yard box.
As the half edged towards a conclusion Crusaders started to reassert control and it was no great surprise when Stephen Baxter’s men pulled a goal back three minutes before the break.
Owens fired a shot towards goal that the was blocked by an Ards defender but he drilled the rebound back at goal, forcing Hogg into a smart save. Unfortunately for Ards, Paul Heatley kept his cool, and steered the ball low into the net from 10 yards.
Crusaders unlocked the door in the 58th minute. Substitute Andrew Mitchell whipped a cross into the box from the right-flank that was powered home by the head of midfielder Declan Caddell from around 12 yards.
Crusaders then grabbed the lead in the 63rd minute. The champions latched onto a Hall miskick, with Heatley sprinting down the left-flank. He drilled a low cross along the front of goal that was turned into the net by unfortunate Ards captain Emmet Friars.
Ards full-back McMillen received a straight red card in the 80th minute, after a clash with Andy Mitchell, McMillen appearing to aim a headbutt at the former Rangers man.
Heatley added a fourth in stoppage time, clipping the ball over the advancing Hogg with great aplomb.
Ards: Hogg; Hall, Taylor, Friars, McMillen; McKinney, Arthurs (75 Liggett), Cherry, McAllister (85 Byers); McComb, Keke. Subs Not Used: Hughes, McCullough, McMullan
Crusaders: O’Neill; Burns, Beverland, Gault (32 Mitchell), McClean; Whyte (85 Lowry), Caddell, Forsythe, Heatley; Cushley (74 Carvill); Owens. Subs Not Used: Dougherty, Clarke
Ref: Steven Taylor