Irish Premiership: McElroy misses pen as Wilson goal helps Crusaders beat Ballymena

Paul McElroy missed the chance to level for Ballymena when he fired wide from the penalty spot
Paul McElroy missed the chance to level for Ballymena when he fired wide from the penalty spot

Aidan Wilson scored a late goal to help Crusaders edge past Ballymena United with a 1-0 win at the Showgrounds.

After the Crues had been denied by a series of Jordan Williamson saves, Wilson poked home in the 75th-minute.

Ballymena substitute Paul McElroy spurned a golden chance to equalise from the spot, dragging his effort wide after Rodney Brown's handball.

The result moves Crusaders into sixth place, level on points with Ballymena, who lost their first game in 11.

Cliftonville will leapfrog both teams into fifth if the Reds can beat Warrenpoint Town on Saturday.

Following a cagey opening quarter of an hour, Crusaders began to find some joy with the aerial route as they twice threatened to strike first.

Jordan Forsythe narrowly missed the target with a header from a corner just two minutes before Philip Lowry struck the crossbar with his own headed effort from Jamie McGonigle's driven cross.

Lowry had earlier failed to trouble Jordan Williamson with a right-footed shot inside the box that lacked power, while McGonigle was frustrated not to hit the target with a drive from the edge of the box sailed well over the bar.

At the other end, Crues keeper Sean O'Neill endured a nervy moment when he hesitated on the ball before firing his clearance straight at Joe McCready.

The veteran stopper certainly made up for that slight mishap on the half-hour mark, though, when he did well to turn Ryan Waide's hammered shot around the post.

Waide was at the centre of another Ballymena attack early in the second half when his shot led to Ryan Harpur's disallowed goal.

After Waide saw his shot saved by O'Neill, Harpur tapped home from close range but the midfielder had strayed beyond the last man before he he pounced on the loose ball.

Ballymena then had Williamson to thank for keeping it scoreless halfway through the second period when the keeper beat McGonigle's shot away with a strong left hand before denying Forsythe with his foot.

Less than two minutes later, Lowry was guilty of spurning a gilt-edged chance when he sliced wide after Williamson had failed to sufficiently clear a ball into the box.

Crusaders were cursing Williamson once more when he produced a flying save to tip Lecky's snap shot over the bar, but there was nothing the Sky Blues keeper could do as Wilson broke the deadlock, controlling Lecky's through ball before poking a controlled finish into the corner.

Ballymena had a golden opportunity to hit back almost immediately when Brown was penalised for using his arm to block Shay McCartan's shot, but McElroy dragged his spot-kick wide as Crusaders held on for a massive three points.