Irish Premiership: Crusaders 3-2 Ballymena Utd

Leaders Crusaders seal win over Ballymena

Crusaders moved six points clear at the Premiership summit thanks to a battling win over Ballymena at a windy Seaview.

Jordan Owens smashed in to put the champions ahead before Paul Heatley fired his penalty over the United bar.

Keeper Dwyane Nelson punched into his own net as the Crues doubled their lead but Matthew Tipton pulled one back by netting from a rebound after the break.

BJ Burns converted a penalty to make it 3-1 and the hosts held on after Tipton completed his double on 63 minutes.

Downpours added to the difficult conditions with Crusaders eager to capitalise on the wind advantage in the first half.

Two goals arrived but the north Belfast side should have been at least four ahead at the break.

Heatley missed out with the spot-kick after he was fouled by Nelson while Owens and Jordan Forsythe also wasted good chances.

Ballymena defender Johnny Taylor challenges Jordan Owens in the Seaview rain
Ballymena defender Johnny Taylor challenges Crues striker Jordan Owens in the Seaview rain

The Sky Blues were also guilty in front of goal with Kyle McVey heading over from two yards.

Tipton's strike on the restart, pouncing after Sean O'Neill spilled David Cushley's free-kick, was the first home league goal conceded by Crusaders since the opening day of the season.

McVey's pull on Owens resulted in the penalty which Burns tucked away but an improved United were now providing the attacking threat.

Tipton followed up to net after a trademark Cushley rocket crashed off the bar but the visitors were unable to add another and grab a point.

What they said

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter: "The conditions were horrendous but I'm ultra disappointed with the chances we missed in the first half.

"I knew at half-time, with the conditions, that it was going to be a titanic battle, but we dug it out."

Ballymena striker Matthew Tipton said: "We can't afford to come to the home of the champions and give three goals away.

"We're disappointed as we didn't do enough defensively and as a team to keep them out."