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Crusaders 4 Ards 2

 Champions Crues past Ards to kick-start their season

By Stewart Robson

 

They’re red, they’re black and the Hatchetmen are most certainly back. In a jam-packed game that included a missed penalty, what should’ve been a penalty, a red card and six goals, the Irish League returned to the home of the Champions in spectacular style on Monday night.

Ards, who finished seventh last season, put in a good shift in wet conditions and deserved the two goals they scored but ultimately, Crusaders’ class shone through with some sublime football on display.

It was Ards who had the first chance of the game with Kym Nelson curling a free over the bar in what was an excellent chance for the Co Down men. Not long after, it was Crusaders’ turn and Paul Heatley managed to get round Ards’ keep Samuel Johnston who almost brought the star-man down but a determined Heatley stayed on his feet while not able to finish off the piece of play.

Contender for man of the match Ross Clarke, had a superb game and almost found the back of the net with a curling effort on 18 minutes but the ball sailed over.

The deadlock was broken however on 22 minutes when Michael Carvill, receiving the ball from Clarke, drilled the ball home with a shot that the keeper could do absolutely nothing about. A fine strike.

Soon after, a fantastic team move between Jordan Forsythe, BJ Burns and Paul Heatley showed why the Crues came out on top last season. Great link-up play that for Crusaders had an unfortunate end with the ball get trapped under Heatley’s feet.

Debutant Rory Patterson, who had an eventful evening, got his head to a Rodney Brown cross but the ball feel to the Ards keeper without any real danger.

But Patterson’s moment came just after the half-hour mark at the end of another classy piece of play from Crusaders and the former Derry City man and Northern Ireland international was off the mark.

Ards responded immediately however with captain Gareth Tommons finding the net after concentration slipped in the Crues back line.

But it was Patterson who was involved in the last of the main action in an eventful first half. In a penalty that at first sight looked like it should have been a free kick, Patterson stepped up and tried a ‘Panenka’ style penalty. When it works it looks great, when it doesn’t, it’s a little embarrassing. The ball rose too high and made its way into the stand behind the goal. Despite the disappointment, it wasn’t reflective of the new striker’s overall effort throughout the game which was outstanding. Even a cross-field ball to Paul Heatley in the second half was mesmerising.

In the second half, the Crues lost a little bit of their rhythm despite maintaining control of the game. Ards did get another goal back to bring things level with Commons scoring from inside the six-yard box but a Jordan Forsythe goal and a Declan Caddell header in the closing minutes was enough to see Ards off and send the Crues into Saturday’s game against Ballymena United in good spirits. Colin Nixon’s Ards ended on a slightly sourer note with the sending-off of Joshua Kelly after a second yellow card.

A man of the match performance from Rory Patterson will keep Crues fans happy as he fills in for the injured Jordan Owens but with performances like this he’ll be fighting for a place every week.

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