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Saturday 30th October v. Larne (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Cliftonville MATCH REPORT

Uploaded Saturday, 9th Oct, 2021 at 17:33

Date: Saturday, 9th October, 2021; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1282;
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Crusaders [1] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Raymond Crangle; Assistant 1: Stephen Bell; Assistant 2: Bogdan Sfirloaga; 4th Official: Peter McGrath;
Goals:
[0-1] O'ROURKE, Jarlath (13 mins)

BALLYMENA United suffered a fifth defeat in seven league games after a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Crusaders at The Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
United were able to welcome Conor Keeley and Dougie Wilson back from injury to partner at centre half in place of Caolan Loughran and Chrissy Rodgers. Owen McKeown, Andy McGrory and Jack Henderson also came in, in place of Steven McCullough, Lee Chapman and Ryan Waide, who is on Northern Ireland U21 duty.
Ballymena were looking for a bounce back from last week's dire defeat in Carrick and they started fairly well, with McKeown firing just over after great play by Leroy Millar early doors.
The Crues soon began to grow into the game and after Johnny McMurray had a header comfortably saved on his old stomping ground, on thirteen minutes the visitors added to Ballymena's recent problems by taking the lead. Billy Joe Burns teed up Jordan Forsythe for a cross and it found Jarlath O'Rourke at the back post, who headed home untroubled.
The opener would mark a bit of an onslaught on the Ballymena goal, with Forsythe sending a good chance over before Jordan Williamson made a big save to keep out Josh Robinson. Williamson was called into action again shortly after to get down low and save a curling Ben Kennedy effort, but United were by this stage on the ropes. The hosts were struggling to create anything, with Jonte Smith spending most of the half isolated up top on his own, and a tame Paul McElroy header was Ballymena's only first half shot on target.
Crusaders could easily have went into the break two clear late on when McMurray caused Wilson all sorts of problems to close in on the box, with the ball eventually falling to Johnny Frazer, whose shot deflected off Ross Redman and just over. From the corner, yet another free header for Crusaders presented Aidan Wilson with a chance, but he couldn't hit the target as Ballymena got into the break just one behind.
After another tough first half, Ballymena certainly picked it up for parts of the second half, and when McKeown did well to get a cross in, it was parried into the middle of the box by Jonny Tuffey, but no one was there in Sky Blue to turn the rebound home.
Down the other end it could've been 2-0 when one long ball put Paul Heatley in, but his effort was hooked off the line well by Keeley, before another free header, this time from Burns, went over from close range.
On sixty-three minutes it looked like a big chance could finally come the hosts way when dazzling feet from Jude Winchester put Paul McElroy through, but after sorting his feet out, he took the shot early from distance and skewed it well wide.
The biggest chance of the half for United to level came seventeen minutes from time, and it was a glorious one. Substitute Dan Bramall saw a dangerous cross headed back across goal for Keeley, and his header came crashing off the underside of the bar, before Crusaders cleared their lines.
After a trio of changes to bring Brendan Barr, Kenny Kane and Spencer Beattie into the action, Ballymena piled pressure onto Crusaders in the final five minutes with countless balls into the red and black box, as the away side were firmly penned in. Unfortunately for the Braidmen, no one was able to make one ball count, with the best chance coming from great feet from Millar to deliver a ball across the six yard box, but again no one was there to tap the ball home.
An improved second half performance from United, certainly compared to last week, but the late pressure came too little too late for David Jeffrey's men who continue to drop points.
Ballymena United face Crusaders again on Wednesday evening, this time away from home in the 3rd round of the BetMcLean League Cup, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Jordan Williamson, Ross Redman, Douglas Wilson, Owen McKeown ( Kenneth Kane 88), Jude Winchester ( Brendan Barr 82), Paul McElroy, Jack Henderson, Andrew McGrory ( Spencer Beattie 88), Conor Keeley, Leroy Millar, Jonte Smith ( Daniel Bramall 68).

Subs not used: Samuel Johnston, Lee Chapman, Christopher Rodgers.