CRUSADERS 3 CLIFTONVILLE 2
Jordan Owens grabbed an injury time winner in a thrilling North Belfast derby at Seaview.
Cliftonville looked to have done enough to earn a point, especially after Joe Gormley broke the club’s all-time scoring record by gobbling up a glorious double from the penalty spot.
The 28-year-old striker has now netted 172 times for the Reds, two more than the previous record holder the late Dr Kevin McGarry.
But the gloss was taken off his achievement by that last gasp party piece by Owens.
Gormley shot the Reds into an early lead, but Rory Patterson levelled before the break. The Crues then roared in front after the break through Ross Clarke, but that man Gormley struck again – both his goals came from the penalty spot.
Both sides appeared to have settled for a share of the spoils, until Owens popped up right at the finish.
The Crues should have been in front after only six minutes following a clever inter-change between Heatley and Patterson, that tore the Reds defence on the right.
Patterson tricked his way past Jamie McGovern and goalkeeper Richard Brush before pulling the ball back to Heatley, who rammed his shot over the bar from no more than eight yards.
Cliftonville responded in a positive manner with Gormley blasting in a 25-yard free kick that was almost headed into his own net by Colin Coates.
But it was the big following of visiting fans that were celebrating on 14 minutes with that Gormley special. It was the striker’s cute flick that was clearly handled inside the box by Coates and referee Ian McNabb, who was perfectly placed, awarded a penalty kick.
Gormley immediately grabbed the ball on put it on the spot before hamming it into the roof of the net, leaving Sean O’Neill totally helpless.
The Reds almost struck again seconds later following a mix-up involving Coates and Kyles Owens, but this time Gormley could only curl his 20-yard shot into the arms of O’Neill.
Crusaders, a team that appeared to lack confidence, attempted a response with Declan Caddell gobbling up a flick from Kyle Owens, but he could only fire high and wide.
He home team missed another gilt-edged chance on the half hour. Jordan Forsythe whipped in a great ball from the right, which picked out the unmarked Jordan Owens, who could only fire his shot over the top from six yard, with only goalkeeper Richard Brush to beat.
It was end-to-end stuff. Cliftonville skipper Chris Curran tried his luck with a low shot from the edge of the box after he neatly twisted and turned away from the clutches of Declan Caddell.
But the Crues were back on terms three minutes before the break with that Patterson strike.
It all came from Brush’s clearance that was headed back by Coates. Jordan Owens got a telling flick, leaving Patterson in the clear and he picked his spot in the bottom corner.
Crusaders were fired up after the restart, Patterson crossed for Heatley, whose shot was charged down by Conor McMenamin and, when the ball fell to Kyle Owens at the back post, Levi Ives got in a telling block.
And, they forged ahead on 55 minutes through Clarke. Referee McNabb stunned most people in the ground by awarding a free kick for a tug of a shirt.
Clarke stepped up to curl a fantastic shot over the wall and past Brush.
But the Crues managed to keep the lead for merely three minutes. Jordan Owens, back helping in defence, clearly pushed Garry Breen and, again referee McNabb had no hesitation in point to the spot.
Gormley again held his nerve to send O’Neill the wrong way.
But it was Owens who produced the final sting in the tail when he got on to the end of a Patterson cross to poke home from two yards on 91 minutes.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, McChrystal, Coates, Ward, Caddell (Snoddy 46), Forsythe, K Owens, J Owens, Heatley, Clarke (Carvill 81), Patterson.
Unused subs: Doherty, Lowry, Glackin, Cushley,
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C Curran, R Donnelly, McDonald (R Curran 72), Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, McMenamin.
Unused subs: Neeson, Garrett, McConnell, Lavery, Maguire, A Donnelly.
REFEREE: Ian McNabb (Coleraine).