ARDS 0 CRUSADERS 1
A trademark Jordan Owens header in the third minute of stoppage time handed Crusaders a narrow win over Premiership new boys Ards.
The Red & Blues hung on bravely for over 90 minutes, only for Owens to break the deadlock a minute in stoppage time.
Referee Steven Taylor produced two red cards, with Ards substitute Gareth Tommons and Crusaders replacement David Cushley receiving their marching orders in the stoppage time, as things got feisty in the Bangor Fuels Arena.
The first good chance of the game arrived in the third minute, when Ards failed to clear a set-piece. The ball dropped to the feet of Colin Coates, but his close-range shot was blocked by the feet of Aaron Hogg.
Ards, arguably, had the best chance of the first half in the 41st minute. Kyle Cherry’s pinpoint free-kick from the right-flank found captain Emmet Friars at the back post, but his goalbound header was tipped round the post by the alert Sean O’Neill.
The second half burst into life in the 59th minute when Ards midfielder Tommons received a straight red card from referee Stephen Taylor. The former Coleraine star, who only entered the fray in the 57th minute, jumped into a challenge with Declan Caddell.
There was another red card in the 71st minute. Crusaders substitute David Cushley jumped into a tackle, clattering into McKinney, leaving referee Taylor with no choice put to pull out another red card.
Ards almost found a winner in the 82nd minute when Johnny Taylor got onto the end of a corner-kick, only for his header to clip the post.
Just as the game was set to end without a goal, Paul Heatley produced a majestic in-swinging cross from the left-flank that found Jordan Owens at the back-post. The powerful centre-forward produced a trademark header to give Crusaders the narrowest of wins.
ARDS: Hogg; Hall, Taylor, Friars, Ruddy: McMillen (Arthurs 65), McCullough, Cherry, McAllister (Tommons 57); McKinney; Keke (McComb 83)
Subs: Byers, McMullan
CRUSADERS: O’Neill; BJ Burns, Beverland, Coates, McClean; Forsythe (Lowry 82), Caddell, Gault (Cushley 57), Heatley; Carvil (Holden 71), Owens
Subs: Clarke, Mitchell