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Wednesday 20th November v. HW Welders (home) - Toals Co Antrim Shield SF - k.o: 7:45pm

Uploaded Saturday, 12th Oct, 2019 at 19:47

Date: Saturday, 12th October, 2019; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1423;
Ballymena United [0] [1]
Crusaders [0] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Andrew Davey; Assistant 1: Stephen Donaldson; Assistant 2: Ken Ross; 4th Official: Shane Andrews;
Goals:
[0-1] McGONIGLE, Jamie (pen 48 mins), [1-1] HARPUR, Ryan (67 mins)

BALLYMENA United played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with league leaders Crusaders at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
United made three changes from last week's league out at Institute, including Scot Whiteside replacing Kofi Balmer who's off on Northern Ireland U21 duty, whilst Cathair Friel made a welcome return to the bench.
The first half was a quiet affair compared to what would come in the second period, with Crusaders the better team but not causing Ross Glendinning too many problems. The first chance of the game, however, brought a fine stop out of Glendinning. Jordan Owens played in Paul Heatley who used his pace to fly past Whiteside, but he was denied by the legs of United's shot stopper. After Ross Clarke and Jude Winchester had traded shot's that flew well over the crossbar, that duo of Owens and Heatley linked up again, with Heatley this time finding the side netting.
On 25 minutes Crusaders were dealt a blow as Owens was forced off with an injury and replaced by Jamie McGonigle, but the Crues continued to push for an opener and Clarke rifled a fierce strike over the bar before Jim Ervin was in the right place at the right time to cut out a ball Heatley had fizzed across goal. Ballymena were struggling to create any sort of openings with options up front few and far between, and despite the visitors not being at their best either they continued to threaten.
Billy Joe Burns had a crack at goal from all of 35 yards that was well saved by Glendinning, with Jonny Addis dealing with the rebound, before the Crues had two penalty appeals turned down. The first came with claims the ball had struck the arm of Ryan Harpur in the box and seconds later Declan Caddell felt he'd been pushed by Addis, but neither shouts were heard by referee Andrew Davey as the half ended goalless.
The second half got off to the worst possible start for the Sky Blues when they conceded a penalty just 2 minutes in. Harpur was the unlucky culprit as the ball was flicked onto his arm and after slight hesitation a penalty was given. McGonigle stepped up and despite Glendinning going the right way he couldn't keep it out as Crusaders moved ahead.
Just like the Cliftonville game a fortnight ago, it took United falling behind to bring out the best in the team, as they began to put serious pressure on the Crues' goal. Josh Kelly set Leroy Millar through for a chance and his shot took the narrowest of deflections to go just wide. From the resulting corner Addis had a go from 18 yards but his shot was well stopped by Gerard Doherty.
On 58 minutes a minutes applause was held by both sets of supporters for former Ballymena and Crusaders players Jimmy Magee and Norman Pavis who both sadly passed away this week.
With 25 minutes left McGonigle almost caught everyone by surprise when he flicked on a header that looked to be going over, before it dropped onto the top of the bar, before 2 minutes later United were level. After a United throw in, Whiteside floated a long ball into the box and it was met by the head of Harpur who got the slightest of touches on the ball to divert it past Doherty.
With Ballymena grabbing that equaliser, both sides pushed for a winner late on, with Ballymena bringing on Friel for his first game in three weeks. Glendinning pulled off two fine saves to tip a couple of efforts from Heatley over the bar, and in between those chances Andy McGrory fired over. In the final 3 minutes of the game McCullough had a long range attempt kept out well by Doherty who got down low to save, but with the last kick of the ball the Braidmen missed a glorious chance to take a deserved three points. McCullough did well to keep the ball on the halfway line and he drove forward on the counter before teeing up Jude Winchester. Winchester had time to set him and pick his spot but he put his effort straight at Doherty who saved, resulting in the game finishing 1-1.
A good point against the team in top spot, but United will feel they did enough to win it in the second half.
Ballymena United are in action against Crusaders again on Tuesday evening at the Showgrounds in the last 8 of the Toals Co Antrim Shield, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Jonathan Addis, Scot Whiteside, Ryan Harpur ( 82), Steven McCullough, Kenneth Kane ( Cathair Friel 80 86), Andrew McGrory ( 79), Jude Winchester ( 84), Jim Ervin, Leroy Millar, Joshua Kelly.

Jordan Williamson, Ryan Mayse, Shane McGinty, Andrew Burns, Declan Carville, Ross Lavery.