Crusaders are keen to put title disappointment right: Heatley
Crusaders 3 Carrick Rangers 0
Crusaders winger Paul Heatley says he's never seen the club in better shape at this early stage of a league campaign.
The Crues kicked off their Premiership charge with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Carrick Rangers and it was a dominant, composed display from Stephen Baxter's side.
Heatley smashed in another cracker while further goals from Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke sealed Carrick's fate.
The visitors were grateful keeper Aaron Hogg made a string of impressive saves but the Crues, whose European exploits included back to back tests against Premier League side Wolves, had too much pace, power and trickery for the new arrivals to the top flight.
Heatley was impressed with his side's showing and felt the slick passing and attacking power was an encouraging sign.
"I think Wolves will make sure you are fit," said the former Carrick ace. "Two games against them in eight days means fitness won't be an issue. Our pre-season and the build up to this game has been the best since I've been here.
"The sharpness, the energy, the fitness, the fun the players are having with one another, and the work-rate is phenomenal. We looked sharp and confident and the players are working hard for each other. There have been changes at the club, including the full-time training, but we have settled into things more.
"The infrastructure has changed but the players have had time to settled in. The only point to prove is to ourselves. Other people's opinions don't interest us. We know we let ourselves down a bit in the title race last season and hopefully we can put that right. We couldn't have asked for a better start.
"All clubs have strengthened, including the Glens, but we focus on our own game and doing our jobs right."
Heatley, whose delicious lob in the first half made it 2-0, admitted it was a relief to get the first points on the board.
"It's always important to get off to a good start," added the 32-year-old. "In something like 10 seasons we have only won the opening game a few times and we needed to put on a classy performance to get the win."
Up next for the Crues is a trip to Warrenpoint tomorrow night while Carrick host Larne.
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Lowry, Ward, Hale (Beverland, 74 mins), Forsythe, O'Rourke, Owens, Heatley (Thompson, 84 mins), Clarke. Unused subs: G Doherty, Cushley, Caddell, Ruddy, Mathieson.
Carrick: Hogg, Neale, Surgenor, Loughran, Chapman, Faulkner, M Kelly (Smyth, 55 mins), D Kelly, Nixon, Ferrin, Anderson (Sanusi, 66 mins). Unused subs: Carson, Houston, Magill, McDermott, Gray.
Referee: Jamie Robinson (Lurgan).
Man of the match: Aaron Hogg
Match rating: 7/10.