Belfast Telegraph

Title shot back on for five-star Crusaders

By Graham Luney

Crusaders 5 Dungannon Swifts 1: Crusaders breathed fresh life into their title challenge with a convincing victory over Dungannon Swifts in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

After picking up only three points out of the last 12 available in December, the Crues rediscovered their form with this first win of 2014.

The victory lifts them above Cliftonville into second place in the Danske Bank Premiership and leaves the Crues in more confident mood for a date with Linfield at Windsor Park next Tuesday.

Stephen Baxter's side flexed their muscles from the start with first half goals from Jordan Owens and Paul Heatley reflecting their dominance.

Owens doubled his personal tally in the 53rd minute and the hosts extinguished hopes of a second half comeback after Jamie Tomelty's goal when Gary McCutcheon slotted in the fourth after seizing on Adam McMinn's defensive blunder.

McMinn's own goal rounded off the scoring and a miserable night for the Tyrone side.

The Swifts had a first half storm to weather as the Crues piled on the pressure.

Keeper Gareth Buchanan dived to keep out a curling McCutcheon shot and he aimed a dangerous shot goalwards in the ninth minute, forcing Johnny Topley to redirect the ball out for a corner.

From the resulting set-piece Chris Morrow picked out an unmarked Owens at the edge of the six yard box and his powerful header flew past Buchanan.

On 20 minutes the Crues missed a golden chance to double their lead. Morrow's pass put Declan Caddell in the clear, but Buchanan sprinted out to make an impressive stop.

Heatley carried a menacing threat and he made a big impact in the 31st minute, reinforcing the Crues dominance with the second goal and his 10th of the season.

Eamon McAllister provided the crossfield pass and the tricky winger raced forward and produced a sweet finish, clipping the ball over Buchanan.

The Crues struck again in the 53rd minute. Craig McClean's left wing cross struck the far post before hitting Buchanan on the back. The 'keeper could only look on helplessly as the ball drifted towards the line and Owens hammered it into the net to claim his 16th goal of the season.

The visitors enjoyed a slice of fortune in the 68th minute. Substitute Jamie Tomelty's shot from distance took a wicked deflection off Paul Leeman and wrong footed keeper Sean O'Neill as it flew into the net.

But the Swifts' joy was shortlived as in the 75th minute McCutcheon pounced on McMinn's weak backpass and danced past Buchanan leaving him an open net to finish the job.

McMinn was centre stage again in the 81st minute, heading into his own net from Morrow's free-kick. A fitting end to the Swifts' horror show and Buchanan prevented a sixth by turning over McCutcheon's close-range effort.

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Leeman, Magowan (King 78), E McAllister (Smith 69), Morrow, Robinson, Caddell, McCutcheon, McClean, Owens, Heatley (D McAllister 84). Subs (not used): Hanley, Watson.

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Buchanan, Brennan, Grieve, McCaffrey, McMinn, Topley, Harpur, Hazley (Costello 81), Glackin (Lavery 56), Fitzpatrick (Tomelty 56), Hutchinson. Subs (not used): Lowe, McCullough.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey).

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