Jordan Forsythe shields the ball from Niall Quinn (©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)

CRUES DEFEAT BLUES TO MOVE SECOND

A storming first half performance saw Crusaders claim the spoils from this potentially crucial clash with defending champions Linfield at Seaview.

The Crues might have found a way through on 13 minutes when Jordan Owens got on the end of a long punt forward only to be denied by a top class save from Roy Carroll.

However, the deadlock was broken on 25 minutes after Paul Heatley twisted and turned to create an opening before laying the ball off for Jordan Forsythe to send an unstoppable shot past Carroll into the top right corner.

And it might have been 2-0 just after the half-hour mark when Owens found the net from a deflected Forsythe effort only to be ruled out offside.

But, moments after that, Crusaders did double their advantage after Heatley ran onto a ball over the top before unleashing a superb dipping strike from the right side of the area above the visiting 'keeper.

The Crues will feel they should have a third before the break when first Owens somehow headed over from six yards while, a short time later, Rodney Brown saw an effort fizz over the crossbar from around 30 yards.

Linfield, chasing the game, needed a good start to the second half and almost reduced the deficit early on when a Stephen Lowry goalbound effort was blocked by Sean Ward.

The Blues did pull a goal back on 71 minutes through Mark Stafford's close range header after Aaron Burns had pulled the ball back to create the opening ... however, despite no shortage of effort, any attempts to salvage something from the game ultimately proved fruitless.

BBC Sport NI coverage

Crusaders: Jensen, Burns, Coates, Lowry, Ward, Carvill, Caddell, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley, Brown subs Beverland (not used), Snoddy (replaced Caddell 62), Whyte (replaced Carvill 76), Cushley (not used), Glackin (not used)

Linfield: Carroll, Stafford, Haughey, Lowry, Burns, M. Clarke, Casement, Rooney, Mulgrew, Mitchell, Quinn subs Robinson (not used), Adams (replaced Rooney 62), J. Stewart (replaced M. Clarke 83), Millar (replaced Mitchell 62), Garrett (not used)

Referee: Andrew Davey

Tags:  Crusaders  Linfield