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Goal hungry Beverland has big targets to hit with Crues

Crusaders 2 Portadown 1

By Graham Luney

"I was one goal off the match ball," joked Howard Beverland after his brace at Seaview on Saturday and he could afford to laugh as Crusaders got the victory over Portadown they needed to hit the Danske Bank Premiership summit.

Normally it's strikers who grab the headlines while defenders go about their important business with the minimum of fuss but Beverland was clearly craving the attention when he scored at both ends in a remarkable 14-minute spell.

With his last league goal coming for Coleraine in December 2014, he had to wait a good while for two to come at once but the Crues new boy was relieved his impressive finish past Sean O'Neill in the sixth minute wasn't the winner.

"It was a great cross into the box and I was backtracking thinking it's either me or the centre forward who gets to this and my attempt to get it to safety didn't work," said the 26-year-old.

"But it's all about how you react. You can let your head go down and be in for a torrid afternoon or you can look to make amends for it and thankfully I took a chance to put one in at the other end.

"It was great to get that goal because it was my first proper one for the club and it was an important one, giving us the platform to go on and win the game.

"People might have expected a similar result to the Ballymena United game (6-0) but we weren't expecting that. We knew Portadown were hungry for points and despite their off-pitch issues they are a formidable team on the pitch. It was a battle for us and while it wasn't a pretty win for us it was a big three points."

The scoreline flattered Portadown a little as the Crues created several goalscoring opportunities but they found keeper David Miskelly in inspired form.

Gavin Whyte is playing with real verve and invention while Michael Gault, left out against Coleraine, was centre stage and oozing class against his old club.

Beverland's first goal arrived in the sixth minute, his header from Mark Carson's right wing cross beat O'Neill but on 20 minutes he netted at the right end, with a looping header.

Skipper Colin Coates decided it was time for him to use his head in the 53rd minute and when he got on the end of Michael Carvill's corner it was the decisive blow.

Ports boss Pat McGibbon took some positives from a match which, in the bigger picture, will not define his side's season.

"I thought the two lads that came in, Mark Carson and Adam Rodgers, acquitted themselves very well. That's the good thing. We have options there with experienced players but others coming through who are all hungry and that's what we want from the football club."

Crusaders: O'Neill , Burns, McClean, Beverland, Coates, Whyte, Gault, Lowry (Caddell, 87 mins), Carvill (Mitchell, 90 mins), Heatley, Owens. Unused subs: Clarke, Cushley, Holden.

Portadown: Miskelly, Shannon, O'Hara, Breen (Simpson, 69 mins), Oman, Garrett, Mackle (Kirwan, 80 mins), Hughes, Haire (Withers, 86 mins), Carson, Rodgers. Unused subs: McGaughey, Parker.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).

Man of match: Gavin Whyte

Match rating: 7/10

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