IRISH LEAGUE: Paul Heatley brace keeps Crusaders on track in win over Ballinamallard

Crusaders Alan Keane  in action with Ballinamallards Ryan Mayse
Crusaders Alan Keane in action with Ballinamallards Ryan Mayse

CRUSADERS 3 BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1

A fantastic quick-fire double whammy from Paul Heatley lit up Seaview last night.

Ballinamallard's Shane McGinty pictured after scoring against Crusaders

Ballinamallard's Shane McGinty pictured after scoring against Crusaders

The little striker produced two outstanding goals midway through the second half to keep Crusaders on title track.

Plucky Ballinamallard United threatened to derail the Crues title push by taking an early lead through Shane McGinty. But a half-time lecture from boss Stephen Baxter had the desired affect as the home team dominated the second half.

Jordan Owens levelled before Heatley took centre stage. The victory restored the Crues seven point advantage at the top of the table.

The Crues were almost ahead on six minutes after a clever back heel from Michael Carvill created the chance for Gavin Whyte, whose low shot fizzed past the post.

Crusaders Paul Heatley and Ballinamallard's Ben McCann

Crusaders Paul Heatley and Ballinamallard's Ben McCann

Seconds later Whyte tested Richard Brush with a sting drive form the edge of the box, but the big goalkeeper got down smartly to save.

United silenced the home fans by sneaking into a 17th minute lead in their first meaningful attack. Defender Alan Keane was robbed by big Ryan Curran, whose quick inter-change Ryan Mayse left McGinty in the clear and his low shot completely deceived Sean O’Neill.

The Crues attempted to come off the ropes with Brush gathering a Heatley header following a cross form Richard Clarke, while a cross wickedly whipped in by Burns had the big shot stopper at full stretch.

Baxter’s team were almost back on terms on 35 minutes. Burns’ delicious pass sent Heatley hurtling into the box, but Brush was out like a flash to save and, when the little striker mopped up the rebound, he could only shoot into the side netting.

Crusaders Paul Heatley celebrates after he fires his team into a 2-1 lead

Crusaders Paul Heatley celebrates after he fires his team into a 2-1 lead

Then just seconds before the break Brush produced another astonishing save to deny Whyte, whose 25 yard free kick appeared destined for the net after Burns had been flattened by Ryan McConnell.

The energetic Heatley created a good chance for Carvill just after the break, but he could only shoot low into the body of Brush.

Crues boss Baxter then made a double substitution, taking off Clarke and Carvill and introducing Jordan Forsythe and David Cushley.

And, Cushley required only a matter of seconds to creat the Crues equaliser, firing in a great ball from the left fo Owens to bundle home at the back post.

Crusaders got the goal they deserved on 70 minutes -- a strike fit to grace any occasion. Heatley picked up an Owens header on the edge of the box before volleying a wonder striker past Brush.

Heatley was far from finished because he put the game to bed with another piece of individual brilliance on 74 minutes. He gobbled up a Cushley pass before jinking past tackle after tackle and his finish was breathtaking.

Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Beverland ,Keane, McClean, Lowry, Clarke (Forsythe 56), Carvill (Cushley 56), Whyte, Heatley (Caddell 89), Owens.

Unused subs: Mitchell, Brown.

Ballinamallard United: Brush, McCann, Taheny, McLaughlin, McConnell, Frempong, Lafferty, Morris (Armstrong), Mayse (McCartney 62), McGinty, Curran (Mullen 88).

Unused subs: McGrath, Elliott.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).