CRUSADERS 2 PORTADOWN 1
Crusaders captain Colin Coates sent the defending champions to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a second-half header to see off spirited Portadown.
The Ports gained an early boost when Mark Carson’s delivery from the right caused problems in the penalty area and Howard Beverland’s attempted clearance ended up past Sean O’Neill.
Crusaders dominated first-half possession, with Gavin Whyte especially sharp alongside Paul Heatley.
Whyte fired wide off Heatley’s cross then the latter steered an overhead kick just past the target.
The equaliser arrived on 20 minutes as Beverland doubled his tally for the afternoon by finding the Ports net with a looping header off Whyte’s free-kick.
Ken Oman stood firm to deflect wide a Whyte shot after clever footwork by the playmaker and Michael Carvill then came close on two occasions before the break.
The first was gifted to Carvill by a blind Garry Breen backpass but David Miskelly’s out-stretched leg blocked the close-range shot.
Miskelly then proved alert to gather a drive from distance by Carvill.
Crusaders gained control on 53 minutes with set-piece success as Coates’ powerful header converted a Carvill corner-kick.
Miskelly was on hand to prevent Jordan Owens from finding the net with another extended leg - with Philip Lowry failing to steer in the loose ball.
Miskelly managed another save in the closing moments off Whyte’s free-kick shot from distance.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, McClean, Beverland, Coates, Whyte, Gault, Lowry, Carvill, Heatley, Owens. Subs: Clarke, Mitchell (Carvill, 91), Caddell (Lowry, 87), Cushley, Holden.
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Shannon, O’Hara, Breen, Oman, Garrett, Mackle, Hughes, Haire, Carson, Rodgers. Subs: McGaughey, Withers (Haire, 88), Kirwan (Mackle, 80), Simpson (Breen, 70), Parker.