Crusaders close Linfield advantage to one point

Crusaders Jordan Owens (right)  scores against Linfield
Crusaders Jordan Owens (right) scores against Linfield

CRUSADERS 2 LINFIELD 1

Crusaders blasted the Danske Bank Premiership title race wide open with a 2-1 victory over Linfield on New Year’s Day.

Goals from Jordan Owens and Paul Heatley were enough to earn a massive win at Seaview.

Owens broke the deadlock in the ninth minute before Heatley doubled the lead just 47 seconds after the break.

Andy Waterworth’s deflected strike in the 59th minute provided a grandstand finish, but the Crues weathered a second half storm to claim the win.

The victory sees the Crues close to within a point of Linfield at the Premiership summit.

Owens’ ninth-minute opener separated the sides at the break.

It came after Mark Haughey fouled Heatley on the left touchline.

Richard Clarke curled in a teasing free-kick which made its way to Owens at the back post who rifled home with a first-time volley.

Crusaders had chances to extend their lead in the opening half.

Timmy Adamson headed wide from Billy Joe Burns’ cross in the 19th minute, while Owens head a header saved by Ross Glendinning in the 39th minute.

If Linfield were seeking a second half revival, their hopes were dashed 47 seconds after the restart with Crusaders’ second goal.

Owens flicked the ball on for Gavin Whyte who raced down the right before crossing for the unmarked Heatley to force home from six yards.

Linfield clawed their way back into the game with a goal out of nowhere in the 59th minute.

Sammy Morrow laid the ball off to Waterworth who drifted in from the left before unleashing a low shot from 22 yards that deflected off Billy Joe Burns and into the bottom corner of the net.

Adamson headed wide in the 65th minute, while at the other end Niall Quinn curled a free-kick inches past the post.

Heatley almost fashioned a goal out of nowhere in the 71st minute.

With his back to goal, the winger looped a shot over his head, only for Glendinning to race back to claw the ball off the line.

Linfield continued to threaten at the other end, with Morrow’s shot being deflected just wide in the 75th minute.

Whyte almost settled the game in injury time, but his shot from an acute angle was parried wide by Glendinning.

CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Caddell, Clarke, Heatley (Snoddy 87), Whyte, Adamson, Owens.

Subs not used: Hanley, Friars, O’Carroll, Cockroft.

LINFIELD: Ro. Glendinning, Haughey (Richards 25), Callacher, Waterworth, Morrow, Mulgrew, Re. Glendinning, Brown (Carvill 71), Clucas (Clarke 49), Quinn.

Subs not used: Thompson, Tuffey.

Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey)