Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Crusaders 1-0 Cliftonville
Jordan Owens pounced with little under 20 minutes to go to ensure that Crusaders ran out 1-0 winners over Cliftonville in the first North Belfast derby of the season at Seaview on Friday evening.
The hosts had edged the game on chances until Owens out-jumped Richard Brush to head home the winner and ensure the Shore Road men claimed the first derby spoils this season to the disappointment of Reds' boss Paddy McLaughlin who felt the Garry Breen’s injury was a massive turning point in the game.
“It was a disappointing night,” admitted McLaughlin.
“It wasn’t a great match to watch and I don’t think any of the two sides played particularly well in terms of what you’d expect of two of the top sides in the division.
"It was disappointing from our point of view. In the first-half we kept the ball well enough but it was all in safe areas and all in our own half, we battled the long ball and dealt with it well throughout the game.
“I think the big turning point was Breen going off injured. It was key to what happened because we conceded straight after. I think it was always going to be a 1-0 so the first team to score was always going to win the game and unfortunately it was Crusaders."
McLaughlin went with the same starting 11 that beat Glentoran 1-0 last Saturday afternoon as Conor McDermott and Aaron Donnelly overcame knocks sustained in that victory
Cliftonville created the first half chance after Conor McMenamin miscued from inside the area early on and then let fly with a curling effort that was destined for the top corner only for Sean O’Neill to pull off a fantastic save.
Crusaders took their time to settle in the contest, but just before the half hour mark, Jordan Forsythe’s cross from the left was glanced wide by Declan Caddell.
A few moments later, Forsythe sent in another cross with Jordan Owens in close vicinity, but Richard Brush parried the danger and Aaron Donnelly completed the clearance.
Donnelly almost released Joe Gormley but Sean O’Neill got there ahead of the striker.
Just before the break, Crusaders may have felt aggrieved not to be have awarded a penalty. Jamie McGonigle steered the ball into the path of Michael Ruddy who was felled by Richard Brush inside the area, but referee Jamie Robinson remained unconvinced and turned away subsequent appeals.
Philip Lowry flashed a low effort wide of the target and hit the side netting in first-half injury time but at the interval the game remained scoreless.
Paul Heatley unleashed a low drive which Richard Brush was equal to minutes after the restart.
Substitute Rory Hale almost made an immediate impact upon his 67th minute introduction, but Brush turned the ball behind. From the resulting corner, Declan Caddell set-up Philip Lowry who headed straight at Brush.
Cliftonville’s most recent addition, Daire O’Connor, almost marked his debut with a goal, but after turning Chris Hegarty the ex-Cork City midfielder lashed his effort high over the bar.
With little under 20 minutes remaining, the opener arrived at Seaview as Jordan Owens out-jumped Richard Brush and prodded the ball home despite the best efforts of Conor McDermott on the goal-line.
Jamie McGonigle had the chance to double the Crues' advantage but shot inches wide of the target, while Paul Heatley drew a smart save from Brush.
Aaron Donnelly had a late opportunity to salvage a share of the spoils for Cliftonville but his free-kick was too high to trouble O’Neill as Owens goal proved the difference on the Shore Road.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Hegarty, Lowry, McGonigle, Caddell (Kennedy 82’) Ruddy, Owens (Lecky 82’), Brown, Thompson (Hale 66’), Heatley.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McDermott, Breen (Harney 70’), O’Reilly, Ives (McCrudden 39’), C Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, McMenamin (O’Connor 51’), Gormley, R Curran. S
REFEREE: Jamie Robinson