Irish Premiership: Ballymena Utd 1-4 Crusaders

Paul Heatley gets a lift after Crusaders into a 2-1 lead against Ballymena
Paul Heatley gets a lift after Crusaders into a 2-1 lead against Ballymena

Crusaders came from behind to beat 10-man Ballymena in the Premiership opener at the Showgrounds.

All the goals came in the second half with Paul Heatley flicking home to cancel out Matthew Shevlin's goal.

United were reduced to 10 men when Kyle Owens was shown a straight red card for bringing down Heatley, who put Crusaders ahead with a fine strike.

Colin Coates headed in the third before Jordan Forsythe fired home to seal the win for Stephen Baxter's side.

The first half had few real chances, with Jordan Owens heading into the side netting and Gavin Whyte shooting wide for the visitors.

Leroy Millar forced a good save from Crues keeper Brian Jensen from distance with Owens also heading into the former Burnley stopper's arms.

Shevlin breaks deadlock

Ballymena took the lead on 55 minutes with Shevlin bundling home after Owens flicked on Conor McCloskey's throw-in.

Whyte and Heatley spurned great opportunities for last season's runners-up when played through on goal.

Heatley brought Crusaders level on 61 minutes by flicking home Philip Lowry's ball into the area.

Irish Premiership: Heatley hits double as Crues beat Ballymena

The hosts found themselves down to 10 men two minutes later - referee Keith Kennedy showing Owens a straight red for bringing Heatley down as the last man.

Crues aimed to capitalise on the extra man and Lowry went close with a volley while Heatley clipped the Sky Blues crossbar.

A moment of inspiration from Heatley put Crusaders ahead, the winger controlling the ball on the edge of the area before firing past Ross Glendinning with a half-volley.

Coates headed home from Heatley's corner and Forsythe added the fourth in the final minute by netting from Whyte's cross.