IRISH LEAGUE: Ballymena United put dent in Crusaders title amibitions at the Showgrounds

Ballymena United have an sffort on the Crusaders goal
Ballymena United have an sffort on the Crusaders goal

Ballymena Utd 3 Crusaders 0

It will be a day Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter will want to forget as is side lost 3-0 to Ballymena United at the Showgrounds as well as losing top spot to Linfield in the league standings.

Second half goals from Conor McCloskey and two from Cathair Friel sealed the win for David Jeffrey's side.

This defeat plus Linfield's 5-1 win against Coleraine, means the Blues go top of the league standings with one game remaining. It's still game on heading into the last game of the season

With so much at stake for the Belfast side they started nervously and United seemed up for the clash - but it was Crusaders who had the first chance of the game in the 13th minute.

A free-kick found Jordan Owens - unmarked in the box - but his header was well saved by United keeper Ross Glendinning.

United had their first chance in the 29th minute. A corner found Caolan Loughran. However his effort flew off target.

The home side could have taken the lead in the 34th minute. McMurray outpaced Howard Beverland. McMurray shot come pass found Cathair Friel but he hit the post when he should have scored. A real let-off for the Shore Road outfit.

Ballymena looked certain to take the lead a minute before half-time. McMurray's shot was saved by Crues keeper Sean O'Neill. The rebound fell to Friel but defender Howard Beverlandl somehow got back to block his effort. A lucky escape for the league leaders.

Two minutes after the break Crusaders should have taken the lead. Gavin Whyte was sent clean through to be denied by Glendinning.

.The United keeper was called on a minute later as he stopped a shot from Michael Carvill after a good run from the winger.

The league leaders were pushing for the opener but Heatley was denied by Glendinning after good work by Jordan Owens in the 59th minute.

As the news that Linfield were 3-1 up at Coleraine came through Ballymena took the lead.

Friel made a great run down the left. He found Conor McCloskey and he made no mistake to make it 1-0.

Jordan Owens then had a chance for Crusaders but his header at the back post was well saved by Glendinning.

Heatley then had another chance for Crusaders but Jim Ervin did well and the chance was lost.

United had a great chance to make it 2-0 in the 83rd minute. McMurray's shot being saved by O'Neill when he should have passed to Friel.

Three minutes later it was 2-0. Crusaders keeper O'Neill being robbed by McMurray for Friel to shoot into the empty net.

Ballymena Utd: Glendinning, Owens, Flynn, Jenkins, McCloskey Henderson,80mins), Friel, Ervin, Millar, McMurray, McCaffrey (McKinney, 62mins), Loughran (Kane 45mins).

Subs not used: Allen, McCracken

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Carvill (Suarez, 67mins), Caddell, Forsyte, McClean, Owens, Keane (Mitchell, 73mins), Heatley, Whyte (Cushley.73mins

Subs not used: Dougherty, Snoddy

Referee: T Marshall