LINFIELD 0 CRUSADERS 1
Jordan Owens’ 12th goal of the season earned Crusaders a spirited 1-0 win over Linfield at Windsor Park.
Owens struck in the 40th minute to settle this top-of-the-table clash in south Belfast.
The win – Crusaders’ second league victory over the Blues this season – edges the champions three points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
It is new Linfield boss David Healy’s first defeat since succeeding Warren Feeney last month.
Owens’ goal separated the sides at the break following a disjointed opening half.
It arrived in the 40th minute, the striker capitalising on a defensive lapse from Mark Haughey to fire home.
Jordan Forsythe hooked a cross into the middle, and when Haughey failed to deal with it Owens had time to take a touch before dispatching a clinical shot past Ross Glendinning.
It was the highlight of a poor opening 45 minutes at Windsor.
Paul Heatley showed some trickery to weave his way through two Linfield defenders before shooting tamely wide in the opening minute.
Gavin Whyte had a shot deflected wide by one of his own players in the 38th minute.
Forsythe almost doubled Crusaders’ lead just after Owens’ opener, but the winger’s curling effort drifted just wide with Glendinning beaten.
Heatley was denied by the woodwork in the 59th minute, the winger clipping the top of the crossbar with a delightful shot with the outside of his right boot.
At the other end Colin Coates did well to block Ivan Sproule’s shot after the winger had raced clear.
Heatley went close again in the 75th minute following a counter-attack from the visitors.
The ball was fed through to Owens in attack, he laid it off to Declan Caddell who threaded a pass to Heatley, but the winger’s shot was well saved by Glendinning.
There was almost a late equaliser for Linfield in the second minute of added time, but Aaron Burns’ rasping drive cannoned off the crossbar before being cleared.
LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Reece Glendinning, Haughey, Callacher, Quinn, Sproule (Millar 65), Mulgrew, Lowry (Ward 44), Burns, Waterworth, Bates (Salley 77).
Subs not used: Deane, M Clarke.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill. Burns, Magowan, Coates, McClean, Whyte (Caddell 70), R Clarke, Snoddy, Forsythe, Heatley, Owens.
Subs not used: McKibbin, Carvill, O’Flynn, O’Carroll.
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)