Belfast Telegraph

High-flying Crusaders won't lose focus, says Heatley

Dungannon 1-2 Crusaders

By Adrian Rutherford

Paul Heatley insists he is paying little attention to the league table after helping to fire Crusaders eight points clear at the top.

The champions have reached the midway point of the season in familiar territory after a 2-1 victory over Dungannon Swifts.

Already there is growing belief that the Gibson Cup will be back in the Seaview trophy cabinet come May, but while others may be quick to talk up the Crues' title chances, Heatley claims their focus will not shift beyond the next game.

"We're in a good position but we'll take it one game at a time," he said.

"We don't really pay too much attention to those around us or the league position. As long as we keep winning each week, that's the important thing."

Heatley's first-half goal set the champions on the road to another crucial triumph at Stangmore Park.

He took possession inside the box and dragged the ball around Kris Lowe before scoring with a smart left-foot finish, but the Crues' inability to take advantage of a series of good opportunities almost proved very costly.

Three minutes from the end, a long clearance fell kindly for Andrew Mitchell, who ran through to make it 1-1.

Lesser teams may have stuttered, but Stephen Baxter's men came back fighting.

As the match entered stoppage time, Billy-Joe Burns picked out Stephen O'Flynn at the back post, and he headed home.

Heatley admitted he thought two points were about to slip away.

"Things were certainly going against us - decisions were going against us, the wind was against us as well," he added.

"So it was very, very tough in the second-half, but we expected it.

"When they scored it was quite disheartening, but we picked ourselves up really professionally.

"Stephen came on, did a fantastic job and won us the match.

"It shows why we are on the run we're on.

"The confidence just oozes out of us. We had that professionalism and the right attitude to come back and grab the winner."

O'Flynn has history against Dungannon, having also scored a 90th-minute equaliser here for previous club Institute last season.

It highlights a serious issue which has troubled the Swifts continually over the last 18 months.

They have conceded too many last-minute goals for it to be coincidence or bad luck.

Whether through added concentration or greater discipline, Dungannon have got to find a way to see games out.

Boss Rodney McAree said: "To go so close and to have done so well over the 90 minutes in very bad conditions is frustrating."

McAree felt the winning goal was preventable.

"We seemed to sit back a bit and invite the pressure onto us," he added.

"It was a fabulous cross from Billy-Joe Burns, but we shouldn't have let them collect the ball in the middle of the park."

Belfast Telegraph


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