Four-goal hero Paul Heatley takes applause for Crusaders against Carrick Rangers
Crusaders 5-0 Carrick Rangers
What a difference a week makes.
At the Coleraine Showgrounds last Saturday, Crusaders winger Paul Heatley was controversially sent off. Seven days on, he had secured the match ball inside 37 minutes and scored his fourth goal before half-time in a memorable individual performance in his side's 5-0 win over Carrick Rangers.
"Last week was a strange game, people will have their own opinions of that, I have mine but the gaffer told me during the week to put that behind me and thankfully I hope I put that right and repaid the team a little bit," said Heatley after his best scoring performance in senior football and one of the quickest by anyone in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Heatley had scored only four goals in his first eight games but he doubled that tally in 40 minutes to leave former employers Carrick shell-shocked and his manager delighted.
"By his own admission he hasn't been playing as well as he was last year but we always knew he would click at one stage. He has so much quality and pace and when he plays the way he did here I wouldn't like to be marking him," said Crues boss Stephen Baxter.
"Everything he struck hit the net and he had a couple of other chances as well and after last week, to pick himself up and respond like that, says much about the lad."
It took only six minutes for Heatley to find the target, a deadly finish after being put through by Matthew Snoddy, and that set the standard.
His second, in the 17th minute, was a delightful lob into the top corner which gave keeper Brian Neeson no chance and the hat-trick goal, 20 minutes later, was set up by an inch-perfect 35-yard pass from Billy Joe Burns. Heatley let it drop over his shoulder and then volleyed in another screamer.
Even the fourth, from the penalty spot, was out of the top drawer, placed perfectly in the right-hand corner.
The fifth goal eluded him, despite three more chances in the second-half, with a side-footer against the upright the closest he came to emulating Daryl Fordyce, the last player to score five in a Premiership game - for Glentoran against Lisburn Distillery five years ago.
It wasn't all good news for Baxter, however, with Crusaders again failing to finish the game with 11 men. This time it was skipper Colin Coates who literally paid the price for punching Miguel Chines when the two clashed in the 23rd minute.
The boss was not impressed. "Something happened close to the linesman. I'm not sure who threw the first punch but I'm not really interested in Chines' sending off, but Colin will lose a week's wages. It was ridiculous to get involved, he should never do it. It's the height of stupidity, Colin knows that and will suffer the consequences," added Baxter.
Opposite number Gary Haveron took responsibility for the nightmare first-half his team suffered and hoped it was a one-off.
He said: "We played very well in a 4-4-2 formation last week and it was probably naïve on my part to take on the champions like that.
"We probably should have set up more defensively.
"Five doesn't flatter them, they could have ended up with a lot more, but that's the first game since we have been in this league that we haven't been competitive."
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean (Mitchell, 64 mins), Clarke, Whyte (Molloy, 77 mins), Snoddy, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley (O'Carroll, 78 mins)
Carrick: Neeson, Smyth, Surgeonor, Kelly, Traynor (Miskimmin, 67 mins), Harmon, Johnston (McCaul, 52 mins), McNeill, McCloskey, Browne (Mackle, 67 mins), Chines
Man of the match: Paul Heatley
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)