Peter Wilson reports from Seaview
Crusaders cruised to a 3-0 home win over Larne at Seaview.
In a strong first half performance, a Jamie McGonigle brace and Jordan Owens goal put the Crues 3-0 up within half an hour.
It was Crusaders who took the lead early on after just three minutes with Jamie McGonigle showing composure to slot his penalty into the bottom right after Tomas Cosgrove was adjudged to have handled the ball by referee Ross Dunlop.
Just three minutes later, the Crues had another great chance to make it two when Harry Flowers’ attempt at heading the ball clear went back into the path of Jordan Owens but Conor Devlin raced off his line to intercept.
The hosts duly doubled their lead on 21 minutes when Owens’ deflected header snuck in at the back post, after a cross in from the right hand side by Jordan Forsythe.
The third goal came just before half an hour, when McGonigle collected the headed knockdown from Owens, cut inside Harry Flowers and smashed the ball past Devlin with his left-foot from 10 yards out.
The only other chance of note came three minutes before the break when Donnelly beat two defenders and his low shot was gathered by Doherty before Jeff Hughes could pick up the scraps.
Larne started the second half brightly and laid siege to the Crusaders goal early in the second half but to no avail.
In fact, it was Crusaders who almost made it 4-0 nine minutes into the second period, as McGonigle drifted in a free-kick from the right but Owens’ first-time header was well held by Devlin at full stretch.
Just after the hour, Cosgrove made a winding run into the box from the right for Larne before unleashing a decent low effort which was comfortably dealt with by Doherty.
On 75 minutes, Cosgrove made another great run, this time down the middle of the park, laid off to Mark Randall but his shot was well pushed away by Doherty before the ball was finally cleared.
A minute later, Dean Jarvis’ volley on the left side of the box went just wide.
Larne pushed for a consolation but didn’t find it and the game came to its natural conclusion.
Crusaders: Doherty, Burns, Lowry, McGonigle (McElroy 85), Caddell, Forsythe, O’Rourke, Owens, Brown, Thompson, Heatley
Unused Subs: O’Neill, Hegarty, Beverland, Cushley, Ruddy, Clarke
Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Kelly, Watson, Sule, McDaid, Donnelly (Randall 45), Cosgrove, Hughes, Jarvis, McMurray
Unused Subs: Mitchell, Ramsey, Tilney, Lynch, Andrade
Referee: Ross Dunlop
Larne have a week to prepare for the visit of league leaders Glentoran on Saturday 25 January. There will be a later than usual kick-off at Inver Park of 5.30pm.