Stephen Baxter pleased with Crusaders response against Portadown

Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders last night got back to a winning theme with this comfortable success over Portadown at Seaview.

By Alex Mills
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 10:19 pm

The Crues boss was far from happy with his team’s defeat by Ballymena United at the weekend, but he was much happier with their response.

Goals from Paul Heatley and substitute Philip Lowry were enough to snuff out the challenge of Matthew Tipton’s side, who have won only once in the Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

“It was much more like it,” said Baxter.

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Paul Heatley fired Crusaders in front against Portadown

“The conditions were difficult, but we were the superior team and deserved the three points.

“Paul’s opening goal was a bit special, it was good enough to fit any occasion.”

The Crues were dealt a cruel blow after only 11 minutes when defender Aidan Wilson limped out of the action after picking up an injury.

It was the home team that asked the first questions, although the home fans has to wait until 18 minutes for the first bit of action when Adam Lecky and Jarlath O’Rourke combined on the right the create a chance for Ben Kennedy, whose wicked drive flashed wide.

But the Crues had better luck three minutes later. This time Kennedy turned provider, dinking a delicious pass to Heatley, who took a touch before drilling the ball under goalkeeper Harry Doherty.

The goal stung the visitors to life. The dangerous Lee Bonis shurged forward before letting fly with a thundering 30-yard drive that cannoned off the top of the crossbar. The ball looped into the night sky before landing on the woodwork again, much to the relief of goalkeeper Johnny Tuffey.

Industrious midfielder Sammy McLeod then volleyed just over the top before Bonis tried his luck from distance again. This time his vicious low drive had Tuffey at full stretch, the alert shot stopper managing to paw the ball to safety.

Back came the Crues. Jordan Forsythe treaded a brilliant pass into the path of Heatley, who tricked and teased his way past Greg Hall before his low drive was brilliantly beaten away by the legs of Doherty.

Heatley was then only inches away from his second goal of the night when he met an inch-perfect cross from Billy Joe Burns, only to see his volley fizz past the post.

But just before the interval, it was Tuffey who established himself once again, getting down smartly to beat away a thunderbolt from McLeod.

With wind advantage, Crusaders went for the jugular after the restart. Heatley’s corner kick was met by defender Daniel Larmour, who could only head wide.

And, seconds later, Heatley again delivered from the left and his time his cross was met by Declan Caddell, whose header brought a brilliant save from Doherty.

Big Lecky had a glorious chance to seal the deal with 19 minutes left when he gobbled up a wonderful pass from Billy Joe Burns, but with only Doherty to beat, he shamefully shot wide of the target.

The Crues were out of sight six minutes from time. Kennedy’s corner kick was met by Lowry, and his header beat Doherty, off the underside of the crossbar.

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns (Lowry 76), Wilson (Hegarty 11), Weir, Kennedy, Lecky (Owens 88), Caddell, Forsythe, O’Rourke, Larmour, Heatley (Clarke 88).

Unused subs: O’Neill, Frazer, McMurray.

PORTADOWN: Doherty, Hall (S Teggart 58), Ruddy, McCallum, McKeown, Salley, Bonis, Conaty (Lavery 84), McLeod, Warde, Jordan.

Unused subs: Brown, Anderson, Glenfield, Murphy, E Teggart.

REFEREE: Shane Andrews.