Ards boss Niall Currie still proud in defeat following Crusaders late show
Ards 0 Crusaders 1
Jordan Owens may have stolen the points for Crusaders with a 93rd-minute winner, but Ards boss Niall Currie was proud of his team's performance.
The Red & Blues battled gamely for 90 minutes, only to be undone by a trademark Owens header less than 60 seconds before the full-time whistle.
Currie said: "If you look at the shift we put in, I think we deserved a point.
"It was a real sickener for us but these things happen in football. Results like today are why Crusaders are champions. They keep going until the last kick of the match.
"But, from our perspective, I couldn't be prouder of my team.
"They represented the club incredibly well and you see our fans appreciated that because they gave the lads a standing ovation at the end. They gave me every drop."
However, Currie believes his defenders could have done better for Owens' goal.
He added: "We worked hard in training during the week at not allowing ourselves to get isolated against Owens, so it was frustrating for that to happen with the last kick. We also should have stopped the cross coming in by putting pressure on the ball, but it was one mistake in (more than) 90 minutes."
Despite going four points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership, Crues manager Stephen Baxter was not pleased with his team's display and said: "The only highlight for me was the fact we left the ground with three points, because it was a poor performance.
"Ards fought like tigers. They worked their socks off, which is what you have come to expect from this Ards side.
"We had the lion's share of possession but we were always aware that Ards could cause us problems on the counter attack.
"Ards will feel hard done by, while we are pleased because we won despite playing poorly."
The contest burst into life in the 59th minute when home midfielder Gareth Tommons received a straight red card from referee Stephen Taylor following a challenge on Declan Caddell less than 90 seconds after entering the fray from the bench.
There was another red card in the 71st minute when Crusaders substitute David Cushley clattered into McKinney, leaving referee Taylor with no choice but to send him packing.
Just as the game was set to end without a goal, Paul Heatley produced a majestic cross from the left that Owens needed no second invitation to head home.
ARDS: Hogg, Hall, Taylor, Friars, Ruddy, McMillen (Arthurs, 65 mins), McCullough, Cherry, McAllister (Tommons, 57 mins) McKinney, Keke (McComb, 83 mins). Unused subs: Byers, McMullan
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Coates, McClean, Forsythe (Lowry, 82 mins), Caddell, Gault (Cushley, 57 mins), Heatley, Carvil (Holden, 71 mins), Owens. Unused subs: Clarke, Mitchell
Referee: Steven Taylor (Belfast)
Man of the match: Aaron Hogg
Match rating: 6/10