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Danske Bank Premiership
Ards 2 Crusaders 4
MATCH SPONSOR: SARAH & DES ATCHESON
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)