Paul Heatley (03)

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Crusaders 'keeper Sean O'Neill celebrates at the final whistle (Picture: Stephen Hamilton/PressEye.com)

HEATLEY GOAL KEEPS CRUES ON TITLE TRACK

Crusaders continued their charge towards retaining the Gibson Cup with this defeat of neighbours Cliftonville at Seaview.

Crucially, Stephen Baxter's are now 12 points ahead of the Reds, and seven clear of second placed Linfield and with a game in hand.

Paul Heatley fired the Crues in front after just three minutes after he got on the end of a long Billy Joe Burns punt forward to beat Conor Devlin with a wonderful finish.

Cliftonville almost levelled a few minutes later when a James Knowles cross was nearly headed into his own net by Colin Coates.

At the other end Heatley threatened again just after a quarter-of-an-hour had elapsed before Gavin Whyte went on a run only to fire wide.

Johnny Flynn was thwarted by Crues 'keeper Sean O'Neill on 29 minutes when his header from a Knowles cross was well kept out.

After the break, Heatley tested Devlin again before the Crues were reduced to ten men when Billy Joe Burns was dismissed follwing a foul on Ryan Catney for what was his second bookable offence.

But, within minutes, Jordan Forsythe almost made it 2-0 when his powerful header crashed back off the crossbar.

Cliftonville had a goal disallowed a short time later when Flynn's header from a Knowles free-kick was ruled out offside.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Caddell, Snoddy, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley, Whyte subs O'Carroll (not used), McKibbin (not used), Magowan (not used), Clarke (not used), Mitchell (replaced Whyte 65)

Cliftonville: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Flynn, Knowles, McDaid, Garrett, Murray, Catney, J. Donnelly, Cosgrove subs Bonner (not used), McMullan (not used), M. Donnelly (replaced Murray 76), George (replaced Garrett 85), Hughes (replaced McDaid 71)

Referee: Ross Dunlop

Attendance: 1975

Tags:  Cliftonville  Crusaders