Ballymena United 3-0 Crusaders
By Paul Alexander
Ballymena United recorded a substantial 3-0 victory over reigning Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders on Saturday afternoon with a commanding performance at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Sky Blues’ Willie Faulkner could have given his side an early goal five minutes after the kick-off. Johnny Addis’ throw was linked across to Faulkner who connected poorly. The visitors to Warden Street also had the opportunity to go in front inside the first ten minutes. However Rodney Brown’s free-kick from the edge of the ‘D’ took a touch before going wide.
United netted the only goal of the half through Adam Lecky in the 11th minute. Wing-back Steven McCullough assisted Lecky with a perfectly weighted ball into his path with the striker applying the finish.
James Knowles almost assisted and scored, respectively, from two free-kicks within as many minutes. On 16 minutes Cathair Friel headed the midfielder’s delivery over, before Knowles’ own attempt forced a save from Crusaders’ Sean O’Neill.
Friel had another aerial opportunity soon after but he could only manage to get underneath Scot Whiteside’s cross. A headed clearance at the other end of the pitch provided Michael Carvill with the ball whose 29th minute shot was deflected wide.
On 34 minutes Friel heightened O’Neill’s concentration with an effort from the left which curled across goal and wide of the right post. Andy McGrory almost made it 2-0 after a minute of first-half stoppage time when he volleyed Leroy Millar’s cross wide of the left post.
Ballymena maintained their attacking intensity in the second-half of the encounter. Ten minutes after the restart Lecky passed between Red and Black shirts to enter the penalty area but his strong shot didn’t hit the net.
Hosts’ midfielder Millar was presented with the ball after a Crues clearance in the 61st minute although the effort went just wide of the bottom right corner. A few minutes later forward Lecky cleared a challenge by Brown and narrowed down on centre-back Kyle Owens. He then played the ball across to Friel who was denied by the onrushing O’Neill.
Inside the final 15 minutes the Braidmen added two more goals to complete the scoreline. Faulkner scored the second with a super dipping effort into the right side of the away goal prior to McGrory’s header, which seemed to be going over, sneaking under the crossbar for the third.
Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, McCullough, Addis [C], Balmer, Whiteside, McGrory, Millar, Knowles (Kane, 83), Faulkner, Friel, Lecky
Subs not used: McCauley, Quigley, Nolan, Ervin, Reece Glendinning, Umar
Crusaders: O’Neill [C], Brown, Beverland, K. Owens, Ward (Caddell, 78), Glackin (Patterson, 67), Snoddy (Clarke, 46), Forsythe, Lowry, Carvill, J. Owens
Subs not used: Doherty, McChrystal, Cushley, Ruddy
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Adam Lecky (Ballymena)
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