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Saturday 24th August v. Glentoran (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 11th Aug, 2018 at 20:21

Date: Saturday, 11th August, 2018; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1224;
Crusaders [0] [2]
Ballymena United [1] [2]
Venue: Seaview; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Ian McNabb; Assistant 1: Stephen Donaldson; Assistant 2: Paul Robinson; 4th Official: Ken Gibbons;
[0-1] McMURRAY, Johnny (13 mins), [1-1] CLARKE, Ross (46 mins), [1-2] MAYSE, Ryan (61 mins), [2-2] PATTERSON, Rory (67 mins)

BALLYMENA United secured a hard fought point with a 2-2 draw with league champions Crusaders at Seaview on Saturday afternoon.
In front of a large travelling support United came out of the blocks quickly very much taking the game to The Crues. A low free kick from James Knowles, making his first competitive start, caused problems in the box before Scot Whiteside had a goal ward shot blocked. Crusaders' first shot on goal came on 11 minutes after Crusaders were given a questionable free kick but the effort from Ross Clarke deflected off the wall for a corner.
The deadlock was broken 2 minutes later by The Sky Blues. Ryan Mayse came deep to pick up the ball in the middle and found Jude Winchester who played in Johnny McMurray with a fantastic long ball. McMurray still had plenty of work to do but scored with a magnificent half volley from the right hand side of the box.
The goal spurred the visitors on further and an impressive Winchester made a bursting run through the middle before seeing his attempt from outside the box well saved by Sean O'Neill. As the home side continued to struggle to get into the game McMurray and Mayse played a headed one-two before the latter stuck the ball over the bar.
Ross Glendinning was called into action for the first time 21 minutes in. A Jordan Forsythe free kick from the middle of the goal was well saved and then gathered by Glendinning to keep United ahead. New Crues signing Rory Patterson hit the side netting from a half chance at a tight angle but it was Ballymena who then went close again as Winchester went on a mazy run before hitting his effort straight at O'Neill. The pace of the United attack, particularly in the form of Mayse, was causing all sorts of problems at the back for the champions and Mayse's pace helped him win a free kick just outside the box. Steven McCullough stepped up and sent the ball inches over the crossbar.
On 34 minutes Mayse missed a big chance to make it 2-0. He was sent through 1 on 1 with O'Neill but didn't get enough power behind his shot allowing O'Neill to save with his leg. Half chances at best for Patterson at one end and McMurray at the other were all the final 10 minutes yielded as Ballymena took a very deserved lead into the break, disappointing perhaps it wasn't more than 1-0.
A double change at half time for the hosts indicated a change in approach as Jordan Owens was thrown on for route 1 football. After a good first half it was a horror start to the second period for the Braidmen as Crusaders equalised just 10 seconds in. A quick move down the left ended with Paul Heatley gliding past Whiteside and his cross-cum-shot fell to Clarke back post who easily finished. Shortly after Crusaders almost went ahead when Heatley hooked the ball into the box for Owens who got to it ahead of Glendinning but headed just over. The home side's quick start to the second half continued with full back Mark McChrystal heading a corner wide completely unmarked from close range.
Just 10 minutes into the half a gingerly moving McMurray was substituted and replaced by Adam Lecky. The Crues almost went ahead on 56 minutes through Forsythe who let fly from outside the box but he was denied by a terrific one handed save by Glendinning.
Rather against the run of the play in terms of chances in the second half Ballymena regained the lead through the ever-dangerous Mayse. A cross from Jonny Addis made its way to Andy McGrory at the back post and he crossed for Mayse who stayed onside to finish from 6 yards out.
Within 2 minutes Crusaders almost drew level again when a Billy Joe Burns cross landed at the feet of Heatley but as he looked certain to score McGrory made an incredible goal saving block. However just 5 minutes after Mayse's goal Crusaders were level. After a corner was dealt with, Forsythe headed the ball back into the box for Patterson who finished neatly on the turn for 2-2.
With the aerial presence of sub Owens a real threat he knocked the ball down for Clarke whose shot across goal was well saved by Glendinning. Crusaders were denied the lead for the first time by United skipper Andrew Burns on the line as he headed a header from Forsythe onto the bar before clearing. With United soaking up a bit of pressure ex-United man Michael Ruddy got in behind the defence and his cross came off Whiteside and almost ended up in his own net, with Glendinning saving well.
Despite creating less chances than Crusaders for most of the half, Ballymena were being far from outplayed and in added time United almost nicked it. After a long exchange of back and forth headers between both sides defender Addis struck a sweet, low shot from outside the box and despite seeing it late O'Neill made a good one handed save.
The entertaining encounter ended with the points shared in a very impressive performance from the Sky Blues overall.
Ballymena United travel to Bangor Fuels Arena to face Ards next Saturday, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jonathan Addis ( 90), Scot Whiteside, James Knowles, Ryan Mayse, Steven McCullough, Andrew Burns, Willie Faulkner ( Shane McGinty 86), Andrew McGrory, Jude Winchester ( Tony Kane 80), Johnny McMurray ( Adam Lecky 55).

Subs not used: Matthew Shevlin, Jim Ervin, Leroy Millar, Reece Glendinning.