CLIFTONVILLE 0 CRUSADERS 1
Jordan Owens’ early header was enough to earn Crusaders all three derby day points against Cliftonville on Saturday.
The visitors dominated the first 45 minutes at Solitude and, in spite of coming under greater pressure after the interval, held on for a big victory.
Having made wholesale changes to their teams for their midweek JBE League Cup commitments, it was no surprise to see either boss restore a series of more experienced names to their line-ups for the return to Danske Bank Premiership action.
Home manager Tommy Breslin made eight amendments to the side that overcame Dundela on Wednesday, with only Caoimhin Bonner, Davy McDaid and Ryan Catney retaining their places, while opposite number Stephen Baxter – whose charges eliminated Knockbreda – stuck with quartet Matthew Snoddy, Andrew Mitchell, Jordan Forsythe and Gavin Whyte in an XI that was otherwise changed and boasted the returns of Colin Coates, Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens – none of whom have been shy about adding their names to the derby day scorecards in recent years.
And Owens did it again after just seven minutes; showing greater hunger than anyone else inside the area to get himself on the end of a corner and power home an unstoppable header from point-blank range.
Peter Burke’s flying save prevented Jordan Forsythe from making it 2-0 and, after Crues stopper Sean O’Neill had repelled a scrambled Chris Curran effort, the Reds winger was horribly off target after being put in the clear by Jay Donnelly.
Burke denied Gavin Whyte on 25 minutes and Owens was off target with a header five minutes later, but the closest Crusaders came to extending their advantage before the interval came when Andy Mitchell’s long throw-in somehow evaded everyone – including keeper Burke – and looked set to be nodded in by Owens only for Caoimhin Bonner to produce a dramatic last-gasp intervention.
The Reds were much improved after the break with new boy Ciaran Murray lobbing just wide of the post with his first touch but that was as close as they got to pegging back the Crues, who might have won by a greater margin only for the post to come to their rescue after Heatley had danced his way past a string of challenges in the final minute.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Bonner, Flynn, Curran, McMullan, McDaid, M Donnelly, Seydak, Catney, Winchester, J Donnelly. Subs: McGovern, Garrett (M Donnelly, 63 mins), Brennan, C Murray (McDaid, 63 mins), M Murray (Curran, 85 mins).
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, McClean, Snoddy, Clarke, Mitchell, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley, Whyte. Subs: McKibbin, O’Carroll (Whyte, 89 mins), Vauls, O’Flynn, McParland.
REFEREE: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)