Crusaders up to third thanks to Heatley
Crusaders 2 Glentoran 1: Paul Heatley's delightful double strike last night almost certainly zapped Glentoran's European ambitions.
The on-fire striker hit two wonderful goals in each half to catapult Crusaders into third place in the Premiership table – a whopping 10 points above Eddie Patterson's team and two in front of Portadown.
Little Jordan Stewart kept Glentoran's hopes alive by plundering a first half equaliser, but Heatley's second effort was worthy of any occasion.
Crues boss Stephen Baxter made three changes to the team that thumped Ards at the weekend, drafting in Craig McClean, Declan Caddell and Timmy Adamson.
Patterson stuck with the team that finished the game against Cliftonville, handing starting slots to Kevin Bradley, Calum Birney and Niall Henderson, who were all introduced from the bench on Saturday.
The home team could have forged in front after only three minutes when the diminutive Eamon McAllister crossed for Adamson, but his low effort lacked conviction.
Crusaders fans were celebrating eight minutes later following that exquisite Heatley strike. Adamson's cute back heel was picked up by Caddell, who sent the little striker clear and his finish was clinical – although it all stemmed from Curtis Allen shamefully losing possession in his own half.
Adamson and Heatley combined again on 19 minutes – this time the former Carrick Rangers player's audacious first time volley flashed into the arms of Elliott Morris.
Then at the other end, Bradley's piercing right wing dash resulted in O'Neill flipping his dangerous cross over the crossbar.
Glentoran began to ask a few question of the Crues defence. Stewart picked out the long-striding Fra McCaffrey, whose lose drive was gobbled up by O'Neill.
McCaffrey, the former Hull City striker, then looped a hopeful shot just wide of the target.
The visitors had better luck on 36 minutes when Stewart levelled. Allen atoned for his earlier error by wriggling his way along the by-line and his low cross was toe-poked over the line by Stewart.
Crusaders almost regained the lead two minutes later. Nathan Hanley's corner kick was shovelled away by Morrris only to Richard Clarke, whose low shot was brilliantly hoofed off the line by Niall Henderson.
O'Neill then pulled off a double save to deny the hungry Glens. Stewart's deep cross was met by the head of Allen, whose effort was beaten away. Johnny Addis, picked up the rebound, but his thundering drive was again repelled by the in-form shot-stopper.
Heatley shot the Crues in front on 57 minutes with another wonder strike. Once again Adamson lofted a superb pass over a static Glens defence. Heatley was on it like a flash. He cheekly lifted the ball over the head of Willie Garrett before lashing it past Morris.
And, they almost did it again seconds later when Hanley's cross was met by substitute Jordan Owens, whose header was blocked but fell perfectly for Adamson, only for Morris to save brilliantly.
O'Neill then came to the Crues rescue on 69 minutes, pawing away a Calum Birney header that looked destined for the top corner.
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Hanley, Leeman, Coates, McClean, McAllister (Owens 54), Caddell (Morrow 74), Robinson (Magowan 67), Heatley, Clarke, Adamson. Subs: McMaster, Smith.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Bradley (McKee 58), Garrett, Birney, Addis, Stewart, McAlorum, Henderson, O'Hanlon, McCaffrey, Allen. Subs: Clarke, Gordon, Boyd, Nelson.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrick).