CRUSADERS 0 BALLYMENA UTD 0
David Jeffrey’s reign as Ballymena United boss started with a battling 0-0 draw against Crusaders at Seaview.
Jeffrey was appointed manager on Monday and faced a baptism of fire with a testing trip to the home of the champions.
But an industrious performance on the Shore Road saw the Sky Blues emerge with a deserved point.
The cameras were focused on returning boss Jeffrey as he strode onto the pitch before saluting the visiting fans just before kick-off.
Ballymena almost broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, but Sean O’Neill did well to parry Gary Thompson’s long-range effort before palming Allan Jenkins’ follow-up effort over the bar.
At the other end Paul Heatley’s snap shot was guided around the post by Alan Blayney.
David Cushley forced O’Neill into a smart save moments later, while Heatley flashed a volley past Blayney’s far post as both sides exchanged chances.
Ballymena continued to press and Gavin Taggart was unlucky when his ferocious drive was blocked by the chest of Declan Caddell.
The visitors finished the half strongly, and in the 41st minute Kyle McVey glanced a header wide from Cushley’s corner.
Ballymena’s hard work was almost undone in the 49th minute when Josh Robinson’s innocuous long ball was allowed to bounce inside the box, and Owens pounced to loop a header onto the top of the crossbar.
Ballymena’s goal led a charmed life again in the 54th minute when Blayney blocked Caddell’s close-reange shot, with Thompson reacting to block Caddell’s rebound before Blayney gathered.
Cushley curled an effort just wide of the target in the 70th minute but O’Neill had it covered.
Crues substitute Jordan Forsythe fired in a low shot from the right edge of the box in the 78th minute but Blayney was equal to it.
At the other end Ballymena substitute Jonny Frazer was sent clear by Cushley’s pass but couldn’t keep his shot on target.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Caddell, Carvill (O’Carroll 73), Whyte (Forsythe 60), Snoddy, Owens, Heatley.
Subs not used: Mitchell, Magowan, Clarke.
BALLYMENA: Blayney, T. Kane, McBride, Taylor, Thompson, Taggart (E. Kane 62), Henderson (Frazer 74), Jenkins, Cushley, Ervin, McVey.
Subs not used: Nelson, McNally, Faulkner.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)