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Crusaders Match Preview

Uploaded Saturday, 26th Nov, 2022 at 19:03

Date: Saturday, 26th November, 2022; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 432;
Carrick Rangers [0] [0]
Ballymena United [0] [2]
Venue: Belfast Loughshore Arena; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Adam Jeffrey; Assistant 2: TBC; 4th Official: Jamie Robinson;
[0-1] WILSON, Douglas (73 mins), [0-2] GRAHAM, Sean (87 mins)

SECOND half goals from Douglas Wilson and Sean Graham helped Ballymena United back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Carrick Rangers at the Loughview Leisure Arena on Saturday.
Eight days on from a 2-0 defeat to Linfield in United's last outing, there was just one change for the trip to Carrick as Jordan Gibson came in to start against his former employers, replacing Ryan Waide.
Ballymena began the game playing with the extremely strong wind in Carrickfergus on a freezing afternoon and early on a few sighters from distance by Kym Nelson and Ross Redman sailed with the wind well over the crossbar.
The host's first real effort at goal came seventeen minutes in, as Andrew Mitchell looked to add another long-range strike to his growing collection this season, but his shot went well wide, before Conor Keeley did exceptionally well to block a goal bound effort from Alex Gawne.
The first half had lacked any clear-cut chances for either side, but after Redman fired a free kick straight at Ross Glendinning, down the other end Carrick passed up a golden opportunity. Ben Tilney broke clear down the away side's right flank, and when he squared it for Gawne he had to score, but instead fired straight at Sean O'Neill, who still did well to save.
As the match up continued to be crying out for something to spark it into life, the Sky Blues best chance almost yielded the opener on thirty-eight minutes. A miss hit clearance in the Carrick back line saw the ball drop to David McDaid in the box and his shot at Glendinning looked to have been spilled into the net by the former United man, but he managed to recover the ball before it went in, with both benches sharing a joke as they thought it had gone in at first look.
As the wind picked up and lashing rain came in over Taylor's Avenue, the second half had all the hallmarks of being a slog, and it mostly was, but not before a strong start to the half from the visitors. Ballymena tested Carrick's defence with a few balls into the box, but they came closest when Gibson's cross found Nelson, who laid it off to McDaid on his left, but his near post strike was saved onto the woodwork by Glendinning.
By the hour mark, both sides were cancelling each other out to provide a scrappy encounter, not helped by one or two injury stoppages make it all a bit stop start. The worst of those injuries was felt by Evan Tweed, who looked to pull up around his hamstring, and the luckless midfielder was forced off for Steven McCullough.
If anything, the home side looked the slightly more likely as they got the ball into United's box on a few occasions, but they had little end product as the Braidmen defended well, and with seventeen minutes to go, those in attendance were finally treated to a goal. A McCullough free kick in a good position clattered into the wall for a corner, but from the corner Redman's dangerous ball was nodded home by Douglas Wilson in front of the travelling support, giving the centre half a much-deserved goal after a horrible year plagued by injuries.
The goal seemed to spur the Sky Blues on and after very few scares at the back, Sean Graham scored with his first touch on eighty-seven minutes, to ensure the points were coming back up the road. An injury to Nelson saw Graham take his place, and after tireless work from the magnificent McDaid saw him burst clear with the ball all the way to the by-line, he cut it back into the box for the unmarked Graham to fire home into the roof of the net.
2-0 is how it finished, as United did well to overcome a tight affair, poor conditions and a less than impressive recent record over Carrick, to pick up a big three points.
Ballymena United are at home next Saturday when they face Cliftonville in the Danske Bank Premiership, kicking off at 3:00pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Sean O'Neill, Kym Nelson ( Sean Graham 86), Ross Redman, Douglas Wilson ( 69), Scot Whiteside ( 40), David McDaid, Joshua Kelly, Evan Tweed ( Steven McCullough 31), Jordan Gibson, Conor Keeley, Michael Place.

Subs not used: Jordan Williamson, Paul McElroy, Ryan Waide, Kenneth Kane, Jack Henderson.