CRUSADERS 3 WARRENPOINT TOWN 1
Crusaders are back in the Top four of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
This 3-1 win courtesy of goals from Philip Lowry, David Cushley and Ross Clarke brought the champions a Happy Christmas which they hope to extend with a Boxing Day victory over Cliftonnnville.
The opening 15 minutes of this game were as dull as the Belfast skies on this last match for the two sides before Santa arrives.
The big man with the white beard arrived wearing his traditional red suit at half time but by then was vying with Paul Heatley for top billing.
‘Heats’ did everything but score in the opening 45. He had the ball in the net after a quarter of an hour but was adjudged to be offside.
He also saw an audacious volley smack the bar from Billy Joe Burns cross on 27 minutes and in between those Aaron McCarey saved his ground shot with aplomb.
Indeed the Dundalk bound shot stopper will be a huge miss to the ‘Point going forward as they try to cement their place in the top flight for another season.
They showed for the first time on 21 minutes when Ciaran O’Connor fed Eamon Scannell who’s effort was blocked but the ball fell for Deane Watters who tested but failed to beat Sean O’Neill.
Scannell featured again after 28 minutes but once more O’Neill showed his prowess by producing another fine save.
Five minutes later Lowry poked a shot wide and on 37 Howard Beverland’s header dropped wide.
The ‘Point continued to look dangerous on the break but Crusaders still seemed the most likely of the two sides to break the deadlock.
Right at the end of the first half the final serious action saw McCarey save from Heatley, referee Arnold Hunter blew it up and sides trotted off knowing it was still anybody’s game.
Nine minutes after the re-start that changed when David Cushley’s inswinging corner was met by Lowry who’s textbook glancing header left McCarey wondering where his defenders had gone.
Two minutes later with the visitors still reeling the champions made it
Ross Clarke’s ball from the right found Cushley who swept it low and hard into the net to give the Crues control of the game.
That sparked two Warrenpoint subs with Phillip Donnelly on for Robert Norton and Allan O’Sullivan replacing Deane Watters on 59 and then four minutes later Simon Kelly took over from Emmet Hughes.
This activity made very little difference to the match and on 75 minutes that man Cushley intercepted a wayward pass from ‘Stute and played Lowry in but on this occasion the talented Derryman drove wide.
Then on 84 ‘Cush’ unloaded a blockbuster of a shot from 25 yards which seemed destined for the top corner until McCarey made a flying save diving to his left to turn it for a corner.
On 91 minutes Alan O’Sullivan’s cross was knocked home by McCaffrey but Warrenpoint’s hopes were dashed again when Clarke rolled in Crusaders third on 94.
O’Neill 7; Burns 7, Beverland 7, Coates 7, Ruddy 6; Clarke 6, Lowry 7, Caddell (Snoddy 87) 6, Forsythe 6, Cushley (Patterson 89) 7; Heatley 7.
Subs:Snoddy 6;Patterson 6.
McCarey 6; Foster 6, McGrandles 6, Wallace 5, Hughes (Kelly 63) 6;
Norton (Donnelly 59) 6, McCaffrey 6, Lynch 5, Scannell 7; O’Connor 6, Waters (O’Sullivan 59) 6.
Subs: Kelly 6; O’Sullivan 6; Donnelly 6.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge) 5.