Ballymena United 0 Crusaders 1
Crusaders’ match-winning hero has hailed his team’s bouncebackability following defeat to Coleraine last Monday night.
Jarlath O’Rourke nodded home his first goal of the season after 13 minutes and it was enough to claim a 1-0 victory over a Ballymena United side who were pallid in the first half, but could have snatched an equaliser after the break.
O’Rourke acknowledged the spurned first-half chances, but insisted getting back to winning ways was the most important goal for the team.
“Bouncing back from defeats is a problem we have had the last couple of seasons”, said the 26-year-old former Dungannon Swifts left back.
“We would have maybe drawn the next game so to bounce back with a win against a tough team like Ballymena United is massive for us, especially keeping a clean sheet.
“Defensively we have been keeping clean sheets this season and it’s good to see.
“That didn’t happen in my previous two seasons, but this year there is a real togetherness about us.
“First half, I thought we were super. We had chances to kill the game off and that’s probably something that we need to work on, killing games because Ballymena United put us under serious pressure.
“You’re going to get that in the Irish League with 1-0 leads, balls on top of you and a lot of pressure but that makes it sweeter at the end of the game if you win.”
The Sky Blues played with more resolve in the second period and came close to scoring on 73 minutes when centre-half Conor Keeley saw a crashing header bounce off the crossbar and line before being cleared desperately by Billy Joe Burns, who could have scored himself at the other end 10 minutes previously.
The two teams get a chance to do it all over again when they meet in the BetMcLean League Cup at Seaview on Wednesday night.
“Back to back games are not ideal but we will give it our best shot,” said a dejected Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Williamson, Redman, Wilson, McKeown (Kane, 88), Winchester (Barr, 82), McElroy, Henderson, McGrory (Beattie, 88), Keeley, Millar, Smith (Brammall, 68).
Unused subs: Johnston, Chapman, Rodgers.
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns, Wilson, Weir, Kennedy, Frazer (Clarke, 58), Forsythe, O’Rourke, Heatley (Caddell, 79), Robinson, McMurray (Lecky, 58).
Unused subs: O’Neill, Hegarty, Doyle, Owens.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).
Man of the match: Ben Kennedy
Match rating: 7/10.