CLIFTONVILLE 2 CRUSADERS 3
Jordan Owens dragged Crusaders back from the brink to restore his side’s slender advantage at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Trailing after a Levi Ives double had cancelled out Michael Carvill’s opener – and with Linfield ahead at Ballymena United – the Crues’ prospects of a third consecutive title were in the balance until two trademark Owens headers made it an incredible TEN consecutive North Belfast Derby triumphs for Stephen Baxter’s side.
Dealt an early blow by the injury-enforced loss of Richard Clarke, the Crues were twice fortunate not to fall behind when first a Stephen Garrett header struck Declan Caddell before Tomas Cosgrove sent Kym Nelson’s free-kick delivery just wide.
Paul Heatley twice threatened to break the deadlock at the other end but, after seeing his first attempt charged down by Ives, a deflection off Jaimie McGovern averted danger for the second.
Within a minute, however, Crusaders were in front. Billy Joe Burns’ long-range shot drew a save from Jason Mooney, who found himself dealing with a similar effort from Gavin Whyte almost immediately afterwards. On this occasion, though, the ball fell favourably for Michael Carvill, who did enough to scramble over the line from close range.
If Mooney was unfortunate in that incident, he was to suffer an even worse fate shortly later when his save from a Jordan Owens header spelt the end of his afternoon; an awkward landing forcing him to retire early.
Cliftonville levelled matters just before the break when, following a brief burst of home pressure, Ives somehow squeezed the ball through a crowded penalty area and into the bottom corner.
He went one better right after the break with a blistering drive that, with the aid of a slight deflection, ripped into the net past a flat-footed Sean O’Neill.
Crusaders were on the ropes but, just when they needed him most, Owens delivered. First, he converted a Paul Heatley cross and then, a few minutes later, did the same from a Billy-Joe Burns delivery.
Cliftonville saw THREE late chances to level thwarted by O’Neill, who made an impressive double stop from Jay Donnelly and Daniel Reynolds before, as the clock ticked down, Jaimie McGovern’s header from a Martin Donnelly corner was clawed out.
CLIFTONVILLE: J Mooney, McGovern, Ives, McGuinness, Curran, Garrett, J Donnelly, Lavery, Cosgrove, Finnegan, Nelson. Subs: Burke (Mooney 32 mins), Bonner, Winchester, M Donnelly (Lavery, 87 mins), Reynolds (Garrett, 75 mins).
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Beverland, Carvill, Caddell, McClean, Owens, Clarke, Keane, Heatley, Whyte. Subs: Mitchell, Snoddy (Whyte, 85 mins), Cushley (Heatley, 90 mins), Forsythe (Clarke, 8 mins), Suarez.
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)