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Crusaders Match Preview

Uploaded Monday, 3rd Apr, 2023 at 22:23

Date: Monday, 3rd April, 2023; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1019;
Ballymena United [0] [0]
Glenavon [1] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 19:45;
Referee: Lee Tavinder; Assistant 1: Paul Robinson; Assistant 2: Adam Jeffrey; 4th Official: Diarmuid Harrigan;
[0-1] FITZPATRICK, Matthew (18 mins)

9-MAN Ballymena United failed to build on the highs of Friday night as a Matthew Fitzpatrick goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat to Glenavon at the Showgrounds on Monday evening.
David Jeffrey MBE kept things as they were just three days on from the semi-final win at Seaview in an unchanged starting XI, while Evan Tweed replaced Kym Nelson on the bench. After the initial game between the two sides was postponed last Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch, United and the Lurgan Blues met in the final game before the split in a key game in the race for 7th spot, and early on it was a cagey affair.
It was probably Glenavon who just edged the opening fifteen minutes, but there was nothing by way of chances and it was scrappy in general, but on eighteen minutes Glenavon broke the deadlock out of very little. Isaac Baird went down the right and floated a cross in to the near post from around the corner flag, and Matthew Fitzpatrick nipped in between Sean O'Neill and Douglas Wilson to rise highest and head home into the far corner.
The visitors kicked on following the opener and went close again shortly afterwards, as first Conor McCloskey headed over, before a strong Baird strike was well saved by O'Neill.
After perhaps a bit of an early hangover from Friday night, the hosts finally got the engines going after the half hour mark as they looked to level. Jordan Gibson was played in, but didn't quite have the pace to race clear on goal, and after laying it off to David McDaid, he refused to go down after being challenged before having a shot blocked. On thirty-two minutes Glenavon had 'keeper Rory Brown to thank for maintaining their lead. A United free kick was headed across the box by Wilson to one of his central partners Craig Farquhar, but he was denied a second goal in three days by an outstanding save.
With the last kick of the half Wilson was forced to make a vital clearance as he turned a dangerous ball over his own crossbar inside the six-yard box, as a fairly scruffy half was edged by the away side.
Ballymena came out the better at the start of the second half, but again found it difficult to create. It took over ten minutes for a shot, but when Steven McCullough's clearance into orbit actually worked out alright and fell to Gibson, his strike from well out went well wide.
After Baird again worked O'Neill into tipping round his post, the Sky Blues went close twice in as many minutes in the middle of a spell of real pressure. First, some outstanding play from Robert McVarnock down the right saw him play a delightful one two with Joshua Kelly into the box before McVarnock let fly with the outside of his boot, and his shot was in the whole way until Sean Ward threw his body in the way to somehow make a sensational block. Two minutes later Sean Graham did well to create space before having a pop from thirty yards, and his shot forced Brown into another fine save.
Unfortunately for United the final twenty yielded very little chances as they struggled to cause Glenavon any problems. At the other end, Wilson picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul, but with an advantage played, sub Peter Campbell saw a shot deflect just over.
A quadruple change saw Michael Place, Kenneth Kane, Ryan Waide and George Tipton all introduced as the Braidmen threw everything at it to try and find an equaliser, but they could create nothing of note, and coupled with a Glenavon side certainly in no rush, any earlier momentum was gone.
After Place had headed an Aaron Rogers effort off the line, United's task got harder four minutes from time when Wilson saw red for a second bookable offence outside his own box.
Things would yet get worse when after firing a volley well wide, McCullough was sent off to reduce Ballymena to nine men. With tempers just simmering as the end neared, McCullough seemed to move his elbow into the body of Jack Malone, and whilst there didn't look an awful lot in it, you always run the risk of red.
In added time tensions remained high and when Place was struck off the ball by Fitzpatrick in a similar incident to McCullough's, he somehow only saw yellow, but the flurry of cards ended the game as a contest as United fell to a damaging defeat in their quest for 7th, as the league form continues to be of real concern.
Ballymena United make the trip to Shamrock Park to play Portadown in their first post-split game on Friday evening, kicking off at 7:45pm.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Sean O'Neill, Ross Redman, Douglas Wilson ( 72 86), Scot Whiteside, David McDaid ( Kenneth Kane 76), Joshua Kelly, Steven McCullough ( 90), Jordan Gibson ( Ryan Waide 76), Robert McVarnock ( George Tipton 76 90), Sean Graham ( Michael Place 76), Craig Farquhar.

Subs not used: Marcus Thompson, Evan Tweed, Andrew McGrory.