Crusaders crowned league champions

Crusaders midfielder Richard Clarke in action with Glentoran's Curtis Allen
Crusaders midfielder Richard Clarke in action with Glentoran's Curtis Allen


It was the day Crusaders were confirmed as league champions, but it was one of poorest performances for some time.

Stephen Baxter’s team went into the game nine points ahead of nearest challengers Linfield, with a vastly superior goal difference.

Their win at Cliftonville last weekend guaranteed the Crues their first title win for 18 years, but officially they still required one point to get them over the line.

They didn’t disappoint. Declan Caddell and Paul Heatley did the needful against a Glentoran team that almost certainly had the minds on next month’s Irish Cup final against Portadown.

But Seaview was awash with red and black - and righly so. They have been the most consistent team this season and fully deserve their status as Danske Premiership champions.

Glentoran came out early to form a guard of honour, even though the Crues still had a little unfinished business.

In fact, the visitors could have spoiled the party after only two minutes when Curtis Allen made ground on the left before crossing to David Scullion, who failed to get a telling touch.

But Caddell showed the way three minutes later. He capitalised on an error from Johnny Addis before drilling an unstoppable shot past Elliott Morris.

But the Glens came storming back with Willie Garrett’s free kick flashing inches past the post after Caddell had floored the impressive Stephen McAlorum.

Richard Clarke was then inches away from bagging another for the Crues with a free kick that deflected just over the top off the head of a Glentoran defender.

From Clarke’s corner kick, skipper Colin Coates powered in a header that was whacked off the line by McAlorum.

Glentoran stormed from the traps in the second half with Marcus Kane trying his luck with a speculative 30 yard drive that crashed off the base of the post.

But it was the Crues who should have wrapped it up 21 minutes from time.

Glens defender Stephen McCullough sent the towering Jordan Owens tumbling with a clumsy challenge inside the box and referee Keith Kennedy had no option but to award the penalty kick.

Striker Dairmuid O’Carroll stepped up to shamefully blast his spot kick high and wide.

It could have proved a crucial miss as Crues goalkeeper Sean O’Neill produced a magnificent save in the last five minutes to deny Curtis Allen, whose fierce left-footed drive was brilliantly tipped around the post by the big shot stopper.

The Crues sealed in injury time when Paul Heatley broke through the centre of the Glens defence before firing lost past Morris.

CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Whyte, Clarke (Magowan 53), Caddell, O’Carroll. Heatley, Owens.

Subs not used: Hanley, Leeman, O’Hanlon, O’Flynn.

GLENTORAN: Morris, Kane, Birney, Garrett (Henderson 46), McCullough, Addis, McAlorum, Nelson, McCaffrey, Scullion (Stewart 59), Allen 6.

Subs not used: Hogg, McKee.

REFEREE: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).