Crusaders to the ‘four’ as Portadown are shot down

Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders went goal crazy at Seaview last night.

Tuesday, 31st August 2021, 10:34 pm
Crusaders' Johnny McMurray celebrates after he scores to make it 2-0. Mandatory Credit Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

The North Belfast boys may have started the new Danske Bank Premiership campaign with a defeat against the current champions Linfield on Saturday, but they showed no ill-effects as they turned in a dominant showing against Matty Tipton’s Portadown.

Paul Heatley began the goal rout in the first half, but the Crues really put their foot on the gas after the break when they bagged three goals in a sensational 10-minute spell.

New signing Johnny McMurray – he was snapped up from Larne over the summer – celebrated his debut by scoring the Crues second, with Billy Joe Burns and Ben Kennedy also getting in on the act.

Crusaders roared from the blocks and were almost in front on four minutes. The alert Paul Heatley caught Paul Finnegan napping and, after racing clear, he could only scoop the ball in the hands of Harry Doherty.

Big Jordan Owens almost opened the scoring on 18 minutes. He got up above everyone else inside the six-yard box to meet a Ben Kennedy free kick, but held his head in frustration after seeing he effort nudge inches wide.

The lively Kennedy was then picked out by a brilliant pass from Jarlath O’Rourke and, after taking a touch, he tested Doherty from the edge of the box.

A goal had to come, and it duly arrived on 32 minutes, much to the delight of the home fans.

It was long-serving midfielder Declan Caddell who provided a great delivery from the left and Heatly was first to react, and his glancing header flew past a stranded Doherty.

The Crues almost struck again three minutes. This time O’Rourke provided the deliver, but Caddell failed to get his header on target.

The visitors threatened for the first time two minutes from the interval when Oran Jackson’s sho form the edge of the box forced Jonny Tuffey to save at the base of the post. Heatley sustained a thigh injury late in the first half, which triggered McMurray’s appearance after the interval.

McMurray wasted no time in introducing himself to the Crues fans – it took him merely 10 minutes to open his goal account.

Kennedy was again the orchestrator, firing in a great cross to the back post and the big striker, looking suspiciously offside, stuck out a boot to send the ball past Doherty.

And, the Crues wrapped the points just after the hour.

Kennedy again provided the ammunition, his cross was met by the over-lapping Burns, whose looping header totally deceived Doherty.

Things got worse for the struggling Ports when Kennedy waltzed into the box on 66 minutes before unleashing a low shot that was deflected past Doherty.

The overrun Ports did attempt to repair the damage late on only for substitute Adam Sally to see his shot hoofed off the line by James Holland before forcing Tuffy into two smarts saves low to his right.

It was a performance that will not live long in the memory of the Ports fans who made the trip down the M1 . . . and will give manager Matty Tipton a few headaches ahead of the weekend game against Larne.

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns (Hegarty 74), Weir (Holland 67), Kennedy, Frazer (Doyle 71), Caddell, O’Rourke, Owens (Lecky 67), Larmour, Heatley (McMurray 46), Robinson.

Unused subs: Thompson, Shields.

PORTADOWN: Doherty, Hall, Ruddy, McCallum (Murphy 74), Finnegan, Tipton (Conaty 78), Bonis, Jackson (Sally 62, Croskery, Teggart, McLeod.

Unused subs: Brown, Jordan, Creighton, Baird.

REFEREE: Andrew Davey.