Belfast Telegraph

Crues closing in on third straight title after going nine points clear

By Adrian Rutherford

Crusaders surged nine points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership as they put a dent in Dungannon's top-six ambitions with a 2-1 victory at Stangmore.

On a night when nearest challengers Linfield dropped points, the leaders made no mistake, winning their sixth league game in a row.

First-half goals from the returning Paul Heatley and Colin Coates gave them a commanding half-time advantage. Dungannon pulled one back late on, but Stephen Baxter's side held on to edge closer to a third straight Gibson Cup.

Early on, a thunderous effort from Gavin Whyte clipped the top of the crossbar. And when Dungannon failed to heed the warning, Baxter's side went in front in the 10th minute.

Heatley scored his 15th goal in the league this season when he nodded in at close range after Craig McClean's free-kick had been headed on by Jordan Owens.

Andrew Burns produced a goal-saving challenge to deny Heatley a second, before Whyte's shot was blocked. But the Crues stretched their lead 10 minutes before the break.

It followed a terrific ball from Jordan Forsythe, whose pinpoint cross picked out Coates, and he rose highest to head home.

The Crues went close at the start of the second half but Whyte's pile-driver was blocked.

Dungannon tried to get a foothold in the game, with boss Rodney McAree bringing on Burke and Peter McMahon.

And the two subs combined to pull one back in the 77th minute.

McMahon's cross to the back post picked out Burke, who netted what proved to be a consolation.

Dungannon Swifts: Coleman, Burns (Burke, 48), Hegarty, Armstrong, O'Rourke, Wilson, Harpur, Lockhart (Teggart, 82), McElroy (McMahon, 57), Glackin, Mitchell. Subs not used: Addis, Lowe

Crusaders: Dougherty, Burns, Beverland, Coates, McClean, Carvill (Lowry, 74), Caddell (Clarke, 86), Whyte, Heatley, Forsythe, Owens. Subs not used: Suarez, Cushley, Keane

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