Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 13th January 2018 at Seaview
By Jana McCabe.
Ards came in to this game on the back of a convincing 4-1 victory against Crumlin Star in the Irish Cup, with Crusaders top of the table and unbeaten in the Premiership since the middle of October last year. Luke Kelly was the only member of Ards’ 3 new signings during the first week of the January transfer window to start, with Timmy Browne & Reece Neale on the bench.
Both sides had a few half chances in the opening period of the game, with a great run from Craig McMillen leading to his shot just failing to test the Crusaders ‘keeper. The Crues’ had the first big chance of the game in the 10th minute with David Cushley’s shot from outside the box just wide.
Michael Ruddy then made a vital clearance as Crusaders pressed, before McMillen picked up a yellow card in the 27th minute. Ards then had a great opportunity to take the lead in the 31st minute when a clever back-heel from ‘newbie’ Kelly and a skilful pass from McMillen gave the returning Guillaume Keke a chance but his header just missed the target.
The dangerous Paul Heatley nearly got lucky in the 34th minute when his shot from the edge of the area deflected off an Ards defender but Sam Johnston made a fine save. In the 37th minute both Jordan Owens and David Elebert picked up cautions for a bit of ‘handbags’, with Ards fans surprised that Cushley’s behaviour that lead to the scuffle went unpunished.
Johnston then pulled off another great stop one minute later saving Gavin Whyte’s effort from the edge of the box, with the first period drawing to a close goalless.
At the start of the second half Keke had another great chance but his shot failed to trouble the home side’s ‘keeper. McMillen was then replaced by another Ards player returning from injury, Jonny Frazer, before Keke left the field to be replaced by new signing Timmy Browne. Browne then had a chance minutes later but was dispossessed by the Crues defence as he bore down on goal.
Crusaders continued to press for a late breakthrough with, to the surprise of the away fans, the fourth official indicating a minimum of 4 minutes of added time. Two minutes in to this added time Ards lost possession in the Crusaders half, with the breakaway leading to a Crues corner. Heartbreakingly, the Ards defence looked on as Jordan Owens rose high to power his last-gasp header in to the back of the net.
As the Crues tried to kill the game off, their keeper O’Neill was booked for time wasting, but it was all to no avail for the away side and their fans as the game ended 1-0 to the table-topping Crues.
A hard one for Ards to take, with Sam Johnston outstanding in goal, and a very strong performance from debutant Luke Kelly. Ards look to bounce back from this late disappointment with a home game against in-form Ballymena United on Saturday.
Sam Johnston, Reece Glendinning, David Elebert, Callum Byers, Michael Ruddy, Nathan Hanley, Gareth Tommons, Luke Kelly, Craig McMillen, David McAllister, Guillaume Keke
Subs: Jonny Frazer (for Craig McMillen), Timmy Browne (for Guillaume Keke), Unused: Ben Arthurs, Reece Neale & Adam McAleenan