IRISH LEAGUE: Late Owens strike completes comeback for unbeaten Ballymena

Ballymena's Jim Ervin  in action against Crusaders' Paul Heatley. 
Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Ballymena's Jim Ervin in action against Crusaders' Paul Heatley. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

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Ballymena United 2, Crusaders 1

Ballymena United’s unbeaten run continues as they saw off league leaders Crusaders 2-1 at the Showgrounds.

A Tony Kane penalty and a header from Kyle Owens sealed the three points for David Jeffrey’s side, while Crusaders reply came from Paul Heatley.

The result means Jeffrey’s side are unbeaten in their last ten games and the fact they played the last 24 minutes with ten players after keeper Ross Glendinning was sent-off for handling outside the box, makes the result all the more impressive.

It was Crusaders Paul Heatley who had the first real chance of the game in the 15th minute, but his effort was blocked and the chance was gone.

Then play was then stopped due to an injury to Allan Jenkins but he was able to continue after treatment and a debate with United manager, David Jeffrey.

It was 1-0 to Crusaders in the 26th minute as a David Cushley cross was touched by Heatley and United’s Jim Ervin before entering the net.

United responded well to the set back as Johnny McMurray had a shot well saved before the Sky Blues had a chance cleared off the line.

And Crusaders skipper Colin Coates entered the book in the 29th minute as the game heated up.

United were then awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute as Cathair Friel was upended by Michael Gault as he raced through on goal.

Tony Kane stepped up and guided the spot-kick home to make it 1-1 in the 34th minute. It was Kane’s eighth penalty success of the season.

Two minutes later Heatley had a chance to make it 2-1 for the Crues but his effort was well saved by Glendinning in the Sky Blues goal.

Crusaders came out in the second half with a more determined approach and put United under a little bit of pressure in the opening minutes while United seemed content to soak up the pressure.

The home side had a good chance to take the lead in the 68th minute as McMurray put Friel down the right but he blazed his shot wide when he should have pulled it back across goal. It was a chance squandered.

Then the game was turned on its head as United keeper Glendinning was shown a straight red after seemingly handling the ball outside the box in the 76th minute.

The Crues then had two chances through Colin Coates and Jordan Forsythe.

But Coates’ shot was well saved by substitute keeper Ben McAuley and Forsythe headed wide when he should have scored from the resulting corner.

Two minutes from the end United’s McMurray’s cross from the right went right across the Crues goal but no-one could get the vital touch.

Then on 89 minutes it was 2-1 to United as Kyle Owens headed home with the help of a deflection from a Kane free-kick after Conor McCloskey had been pulled down.

Crusaders pushed hard at the end to grab an equaliser but it was all in vain as United held on for the win.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, T Kane, Owens, Thompson, Jenkins, Faulkner, Friel, Wallace, Ervin, McMurray, Loughran.

Subs: McAuley, Flynn, McCloskey, E Kane, Shevlin.

Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Gault, Coates, Carvill, Cushley, Forsythe, McClean, Owens, Clarke, Heatley.

Subs: Beverland, Mitchell, Soares, Dougherty, Snoody.

Ref: S Taylor.