Belfast Telegraph

It's three and easy for Heatley as Crues regain lead in title race

Warrenpoint 1-4 Crusaders

By Gareth McCullough

Paul Heatley was the star of the show in front of the Sky Sports audience and he hit a super hat-trick to send his Crusaders side back to the top of the table with five games to go.

Darren Murray grabbed the other goal while TJ Murray scored a consolation for hosts Warrenpoint, but the margin of victory was a fair reflection of the gulf in class between the sides on the night.

While Stephen Baxter's men had a number of suspensions and star man Gavin Whyte away on Northern Ireland Under-21 duty, it mattered little as Heatley took charge against a Warrenpoint side seeing interim boss Stephen McDonnell oversee his first home game in charge.

The north Belfast men deservedly took the lead on the half-hour mark.

Jordan Forsythe's pinpoint diagonal ball from right to left sent Heatley, who had been quiet up until that point, racing clear on goal and the forward made no mistake with a sumptuous outside of the boot first-time finish with his right from just inside the box that gave Point keeper Jonny Parr no chance.

It could have been much more before half-time with the visitors creating three more clear scoring chances in the space of seven minutes - all of them falling to striker Murray.

The first was on 34 minutes when Murray pounced on a loose ball to break through on the right, but with only Parr to beat he dragged his effort wide of the left-hand post.

Two minutes later, a clever reverse pass from Jamie Glackin put Murray in the clear on the right side of the penalty area, but this time he fired into the side-netting. He then headed a bouncing ball over the advancing Parr and towards the open net only for Warrenpoint defender Anto Reilly to get back and clear off the line.

However, Murray only had to wait until five minutes after the restart to finally get his goal against his old club and double the lead for his new side when he cracked in a fine low volley from 15 yards on the right-hand side that flew past Parr.

Town did have two good chances when Alan O'Sullivan burst through but he shot wide with the goal at his mercy before Brian Jensen made an excellent stop to deny substitute Conor McMenamin following a Sean Mackle through ball.

However, from the resulting corner, Crusaders put the game to bed with a lightning quick counter-attack that led to a brilliant third goal and a second for Heatley. Matthew Snoddy hooked the ball clear from the edge of his own box, Glackin beat the advancing Parr and, despite being forced wide, he had the presence of mind to cut inside Josh Lynch before unselfishly squaring for Heatley to ram it home.

That was on 70 minutes and Heatley completed his hat-trick to make it 4-0 just three minutes later when he was given the freedom of the penalty area to nod home a Glackin free-kick for his 18th league goal of the season.

Warrenpoint did pull one back three minutes from time when Jensen let TJ Murray's shot from the edge of the box squirm under him, but it was mere consolation for the home side as Crusaders eased their way back to the summit.

Belfast Telegraph

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