Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders put down a title marker with this sensational win over a totally outclassed Portadown at Seaview.
It was a performance that had champions written all over it. In fact, the Shore Road boys had the points in their pocket as early as 17 minutes.
A quick-fire six minute treble had the Ports reeling. Big Jordan Owens bagged a glorious hat-trick, Paul Heatley hit two with Dairumid O’Carroll converting from the spot.
And, it got even worse for Ronnie McFall’s over-run team as striker Darren Murray was shown a straight red card by over-worked referee Raymond Hetherington for an alleged head butt afer only 22 minutes!
The result catapulted the Crues seven points clear in the Danske Premiership table . . . and they are an incredible 12 ahead of title holder Cliftonville.
The Crues roared from the blocks and had the game over in the first 17 minutes -- it was sensational stuff.
They struck the first on 11. Richard Clarke’s quickly taken free kick picked out Heatley, who fed the ball back to Billy Joe Burns, whose dipping cross was completely missed by Garry Breen, leaving Owens in the clear and his finish was clinical, cleverly picking his spot past David Miskelly.
Portadown were clearly rattled. It was no surprise when the home team struck again three minutes later. Another Clarke free kick to the back post was knocked back by skipper Colin Coates and Owens brilliantly volleyed home from 16 yards.
The home fans were celebrating again three minutes later following another scintillating move.
Gavin Whyte motored down the right before cheekily back-heeling the ball to Clarke. The cultural midfielder whipped over another teasing cross which met by Heatley and, after a quick flick of the head, the ball flashed past an astonished Miskelly.
But the game erupted for all the wrong reasons on 19 minutes with Mark McAllister, Declan Caddell and Josh Robinson all going into referee Raymond Hetherington’s note book.
It was inevitable that someone was going to see red and, it duly happened three minutes later when Murray was shown a straight red following an alleged head butt on Burns.
There was just no let-up. The red and blacks almost added to their tally seconds after the break when Owens flicked a Caddell cross inches wide.
Heatley then stung the hands of Miskelly with a rasping low drive after easily skipping past Ross Redman and Robbie Garrett.
But Owens had better luck on 58 minutes when he was gifted his hat-trick. Heatley was allowed time and space to send an inch perfect ball on to the head of the big striker and he just doesn’t miss from four yards.
Miskelly saved the Ports from further embarrassment by superbly beating away a blockbuster from the lively Heatley.
The wee man then blasted an audacious 25 yard volley inches over the top with the Ports shot stopper totally beaten.
Crusaders made it five six minutes from time when O’Carroll was pushed over by RossRedman inside the box. The big substitute dusted himself down to ram the spot kick past Miskelly.
Heatley then rounded off a wonderful performance on 87 minutes with a sixth, poking the ball home after walking past the keeper.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson (O’Carroll 61), McClean, Molloy, Clarke, Caddell (Friars 75), Whyte (O’Flynn 76), Heatley, Owens.
Subs: Hanley, O’Hanlon.
Portadown: Miskelly, Redman, Ramsey, Breen, McMahon (Mouncey 46), Mackle, Murray, McAllister (Conaty 63), McElroy (Twigg 46), Gault, Garrett.
Subs: Brennan, Richardson.
Referee: R Hetherington (Dungannon).