LOWRY AND McMURRAY ON TARGET FOR CRUES
Goals from Philip Lowry and Johnny McMurray helped Crusaders to victory over Ballymena United at Seaview.
The Crues got off to a bright start and deservedly moved in front after nine minutes when Lowry got past Mal Smith to get the last touch to Ross Clarke's brilliantly delivered cross.
United came close to levelling when Smith turned provider for Steven McCullough who could only direct the ball straight at Jonny Tuffey while, at the other, Sam Johnston pulled off a superb stop to thwart Ben Kennedy.
Stephen Baxter's side pushed for a second goal before the break, and might have grabbed it when BJ Burns went close from Kennedy's cross before McMurray sent an effort over from 25 yards.
The Crues enjoyed a couple of efforts early in the second half through McMurray and Adam Lecky but, on 53 minutes, United levelled after Ryan Waide fired home from six yards after Leroy Millar had done the hard work with the run and cross from the left.
The home side might have regained the advantage not long after that only for McCullough to clear Lecky's effort off the line, and then Lowry did have the ball in the net again but it was ruled out following a challenge on Johnston.
But number two for the Crues - and the winner - did arrive on 66 minutes after McMurray ran onto Robbie Weir's through ball to round Johnston and easily slot home.
And there was almost a third late on but Jordan Forsythe will feel he could have done better in space only to fire straight at Johnston.
Crusaders: Tuffey, Burns, Hegarty, Wilson, Weir, Lowry, Kennedy, Lecky, Forsythe, Clarke, McMurray subs Shields (not used), Doyle (not used), L. Patterson (not used), Owens (replaced Kennedy 89), Heatley (replaced Lecky 81), J. Patterson (not used), Barr (replaced Wilson 89)
Ballymena United: Johnston, Waide, McCullough, Barr, Bramall, Loughran, Millar, Graham, Smith, Nelson, Place subs Redman (replaced Nelson 31), Kelly (replaced Barr 61), McElroy (replaced Place 73), Kane (replaced Bramall 73), McGrory (replaced Smith 73)