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Danske Bank Premiership

Ards 2 Crusaders 4


First half joy turned to second half dismay as we surrendered a two goal lead against Crusaders who stormed back to win 4-2.

It was the first defeat of Colin Nixon’s reign but no one in the Ards camp could have too many complaints after another fine display against the reigning league champions.

An initial flurry from the visitors could have seen them a couple of goals to the good within the first nine minutes but the woodwork would come to Ards’ rescue in keeping out shots from Jordan Owens and Paul Heatley.

At the other end Carl McComb put an early header over the bar before Ards went in front with 13 minutes played. Joe McKinney, playing on the right of midfield, attempted a cross from the edge of the box which struck the arm of Craig McClean, forcing ref Steven Taylor to award a penalty. Kicking duties fell to Craig McMillen who squeezed the ball past Sean O’Neill.

On 15 minutes there was almost a second goal for Ards when Guillaume Keke forced his way in from the right to crack a shot off the underside of the Crusaders crossbar. Two minutes after that and incredibly Ards did have a second goal. Good initial work from McKinney soon saw the ball to Greg Hall, who whipped in a cross from the right that McComb stole a yard off his marker to hook in.

Eventually Crusaders would find their feet but it would take until the 42nd minute for them to pull a goal back. After Owens saw shots blocked first by McMillen and then by Aaron Hogg, there was Heatley in the right spot to take advantage and turn the loose ball into the Ards net.

Thirteen minutes into the second half and Crusaders pulled level with a fine finish from Declan Caddell. Substitute Andy Mitchell’s deep cross in from the right found the midfielder free in the box and he superbly directed a header into Hogg’s top right hand corner.

Things then went from bad to worse for Ards when Crusaders edged into a 3-2 lead with 63 minutes gone. It was Heatley again the thorn in Ards’ side as he whipped a low ball across the face of goal that the outstretched leg of Emmet Friars turned into his own net.

There was little sign of surrender from Colin Nixon at this stage as he sent on forward Gary Liggett in search of the equaliser. The closest Ards would really come to getting back on level footing was when a McMillen corner from the right caught O’Neill napping and the keeper had to scramble to pluck the ball out from under the crossbar.

That would be the last meaningful contribution from McMillen, who received his marching orders with nine minutes remaining for catching Mitchell with what appeared to be a headbutt in full view of the referee.

Crusaders’ edge was clear for all to see by this stage and Howard Beverland went close to adding his name to the scoresheet on 84 minutes when he snuck in behind the Ards defence only to hook a shot well over the top. There was to be another goal in the match however, delivered from the boot of Heatley a minute into added time when he raced onto a header forward to lob Hogg and score his second of the night.

3rd January 2017


18 Aaron Hogg, 2 Greg Hall, 25 Emmet Friars (capt.), 5 Johnny Taylor, 7 Craig McMillen, 10 Joe McKinney, 20 Kyle Cherry, 8 Ross Arthurs, 11 David McAllister, 17 Carl McComb, 19 Guillaume Keke


4 Stuart McMullan, 6 David McCullough, 9 Gary Liggett (for Arthurs 66), 12 Jordan Hughes, 21 Callum Byers (for McAllister 85)


Steven Taylor


McMillen (13, pen), McComb (17)


Taylor (76)

McMillen (81)



Match highlights (BBC Sport NI)

Carl McComb scored for the second successive match
Picture: Gareth McCluskey
Man of the match David McAllister receives his award after the game from match sponsors Sarah and
Des Atcheson
Picture: Andrew McCullough