CRUSADERS 1 WARRENPOINT 0
Crusaders edged to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a 1-0 win over Warrenpoint Town at Seaview.
Diarmuid O’Carroll’s second-half goal was enough to seal three points against the basement strugglers.
The victory – coupled with Linfield’s draw against Glentoran – sees the champions leapfrog the Blues on goal difference at the summit.
O’Carroll headed home Billy Joe Burns’ cross in the 47th minute to make it 12 games unbeaten for Stephen Baxter’s side.
Warrenpoint goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan ensured the scoreline remained 0-0 at the break.
Shanahan denied O’Carroll with a decent save in the 16th minute, and from the resulting corner Jordan Owens had a volley deflected inches over the bar.
Warrenpoint crafted a decent opening in the 19th minute.
Daniel Hughes threaded a pass into Conor McDonald inside the box, and McDonald’s back-heel teed up Stephen Hughes who could only blaze hit shot well over from 22 yards.
Crusaders continued to press, and Richard Clarke’s ferocious effort was bravely blocked by Stephen Hughes in the 24th minute.
Shanahan then saved Owens’ low drive with his feet 10 minutes later, and the Warrenpoint keeper was at it again in the 37th minute with a comfortable save from Andy Mitchell’s snap shot.
Whatever Crues boss Stephen Baxter said to his players at the interval appeared to work as they claimed the lead inside two minutes of the restart.
O’Carroll was clinical with the finish, the striker ghosting into the box to head home Burns’ driven cross.
Owens then fired tamely over the bar as the champions went looking for a quick second goal.
Josh Robinson thought he had doubled Crusaders’ lead in the 55th minute, but the defender’s bullet header was ruled out for offside.
Owens should have made it 2-0 in the 67th minute, but after controlling Burns’ cross, the striker could only dink his shot past Shanahan and onto the bar from six yards.
Stephen Hughes fired over from the edge of the box in the 87th minute as the visitors chased a late equaliser.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Robinson, Coates, McClean, Mitchell, Snoddy, Clarke, Carvill (Molloy 89), O’Carroll, Owens, Burns.
Subs not used: McKibbin, O’Flynn, Vauls, Magowan.
WARRENPOINT: Shanahan, King (Donnelly 85), McVeigh, McDonald (M. Hughes 62), D. Hughes, S. Hughes, McCabe (Murray 81), Dane, Bagnall, Moan, Boyle.
Subs not used: Clarke, Kierans.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)