The legendary Philip Lowry scored for a fifth league game in a row last night as the Crusaders moved to joint top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.

Tiffin Baxter’s boys produced another performance of pace, power and precision to push David Jeffrey’s Ballymena United a little closer to the relegation zone.

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Lowry opened his side’s goal tally before Jarlath O’Rourke and Jordan Forsyth lit up the Seaview and took the Cruises level on points with Glenthorn, who have a slightly better goal difference.

It was another night of misery for the Sky Blues. Jeffery’s body language after last week’s home defeat by Carrick Rangers said it all, admitting that halting the dangerous slide down the table will be a ‘huge challenge’.

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One win from seven league fixtures has not been pleasant for the long-time former Linfield boss and after last night’s show there appears to be no quick fix.

It was Cruz who asked all the early questions with Forsythe heading in after just seven minutes, before his low drive was saved at the base of the post by Sean O’Neill.

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The hosts missed another chance six minutes later as Paul Hateley’s powerful shot was beaten away by O’Neill just inches from being replaced by Jude Winchester. Seconds later, Ross Clarke whipped in a corner from the right that missed the mark of Daniel Larmer, but his bullet header went inches wide of the post.

The home team finally broke the deadlock on 29 minutes. Billie Joe Burns’ searching punt was brilliantly touched down by Adam Leckie from Lowry, who beat O’Neill.

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Muttahida responded positively. Shaun Graham made ground on the left before picking out Jordan Gibson’s cross, but the striker’s header fell straight into the gloves of Jonny Tuffy.

But it was temporary. The Crusaders struck again on 33 minutes, as Clarke provided a peach of a cross from the right which was brilliantly returned by Leakey for O’Rourke to poke home in the six yard box.

It could have been worse. He made a brilliant double save from O’Neill to deny Lory and then O’Rourke to kill the game as a contest.

The pace slowed considerably, but the chances kept coming and Clarke really should have put the game to bed when a one-on-one with O’Neill, whose outstretched leg cleared him.

United almost found a way back into the game when Conor Kelly’s flick-on header went wide.

12 minutes from time, the visitors were let off the hook again when Heatley saw a shot cannon off the back of the post, before Forsyth finally sealed it on 83 minutes, with Clarke to meet a corner. Rising high and his well-struck header found his back. Net

Crusaders: Taffy, Burns, Weir (Thompson 87), Lowry, Leakey (McMurray 87), Forsyth, O’Rourke, Winchester, Larmore, Heatley, Clarke (Snelgrove 87).

Unused Subs: Murphy, Abby, Owens, Barr.

Ballymena United: O’Neill, Redman, McDaid, Kelly, McCullough, Kane, Gibson (Parkhouse 81), Keeley, Graham (Henderson 64), Tipton (McElroy 81), Place.

Unused Subs: Whiteside, Loughran, Wide, Corbett.

Referee: Ian McNab

Player of the Match: Philip Lowry

Match Rating: 6/10

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