Belfast Telegraph

Heatley-inspired Crusaders win County Antrim Shield after Ballymena bashing

Toals County Antrim Shield final: Ballymena United 2-4 Crusaders

By Gareth Hanna

Crusaders have won their first knock-out competition since 2012 with a devastating performance at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

The Crues cruised to a 4-2 win over Ballymena United in the County Antrim Shield final, largely thanks to the inspirational Paul Heatley.

He finished with a goal and two assists, three if you allow the first goal that was eventually bundled in from his corner kick.

Two-goals in two minutes meant Crusaders had one hand on the Shield by the time the clock hit double figures.

Former Coleraine defender Howard Beverland got the first, bundling home a Paul Heatley corner before Jordan Owens tapped home Heatley's cross to double the scores.

An uncharacteristically off-colour Ballymena survived further punishment until 23 minutes, when Declan Caddell swept a shot into the bottom corner after Heatley knocked down a long ball.

In truth, it could have been more by the break but Heatley was twice caught offside when played through and Ross Glendinning pulled off a top drawer save from a Matthew Snoddy rasper.

Ballymena threatened to mount a comeback when Jonathan McMurray finished his fourth goal of the season after a one-two with Kevin Braniff.

Then came the turning point of the match. Braniff was played through and saw a one-on-one saved by the massive Brian Jensen. Four minutes later, Heatley finished Snoddy's unselfish lay-off for 4-1.

Braniff had also missed from six yards toward the end of the first half, two big misses that played their part in a disappointing night for the Sky Blues. Even a late goal by substitute Cathair Friel couldn't soften the blow.

Keep up with tonight's final right here:

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