CRUSADERS 5 BALLINAMALLARD 0
Crusaders were five-alive at Seaview as the champions cantered to their first win of the season.
Following an opening day defeat to Portadown and Wednesday’s draw with Glentoran, the Crues kick-started their title defence with a 5-0 rout of Ballinamallard United.
Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens bagged two goals each, all after Diarmuid O’Carroll opened the scoring in the second minute.
Ballinamallard’s miserable afternoon was compounded when Sean O’Neill pulled off a superb double save to deny Ryan Campbell from the penalty spot.
The Mallards’ hopes of causing an upset were quickly extinguished by clinical Crusaders.
The visitors were caught in the headlights as they conceded three goals in the opening 21 minutes.
The opener arrived in less than two minutes, with Owens’ deep cross finding the unmarked O’Carroll who dispatched a first-time shot into the bottom corner.
Crusaders doubled theirlead in the 14th minute with Heatley on target.
Richard Clarke’s cross was inadvertently flicked on by Leon Carters into the path of Owens, and the striker delivered a low cross for Heatley to finish off from three yards out.
It was 3-0 on 21 minutes with Heatley claiming his second of the day.
The Mallards gave away cheap possession and Heatley was afforded time and space to send a left-foot shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Rouse did well to prevent Crusaders extending their lead just before the break.
First he denied Heatley his hat-trick with a brave block, and then the Mallards goalkeeper expertly tipped over Owens’ bullet header.
It would prove all in vain for Rouse, however, as Owens nipped in to make it 4-0 in the first minute of injury time.
Steve Feeney’s attempted clearance was blocked into the path of Owens who arrowed a low shot past Rouse at the near post.
Ballinamallard’s agony was compounded with Campbell’s penalty miss in the 50th minute.
It came after Josh Robinson fouled the winger inside the area.
Campbell stepped up and had his initial effort saved by O’Neill, and the Crues goalkeeper then reacted quickly to parry Campbell’s follow-up strike over the bar.
It was a remarkable double save from O’Neill who protected his clean sheet with aplomb.
It was 5-0 in the 81st minute with Owens grabbing his second of the afternoon – the striker looping a back post header over Rouse and into the net.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Robinson, Coates, McClean, Whyte (Carvill 80), Heatley (Forsythe 84), Clarke, O’Carroll, Owens, Mitchell (Snoddy 74).
Subs not used: McKibbin, Vauls.
BALLINAMALLARD: Rouse, Crilly, Feeney, Carters (Lecky 46), McLaughlin, Campbell (Hume 71), Currie (McCartney 71), McMenamin, McCrudden, Patterson, Martin.
Subs not used: McCusker, Smith.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)