Irish Premiership: Linfield beat champions Crues to secure second

Linfield scorer Michael Carvill is congratulated by team-mate Stephen Lowry

Linfield secured second place in the Irish Premiership as they defeated new champions Crusaders 3-1 at the Oval.

Diarmuid O'Carroll and Paul Heatley hit the Linfield crossbar early on but Ivan Sproule put the Blues ahead on 24 and Michael Carvill doubled the lead on 30.

Heatley replied for the Crues on 47 and the champions missed a number of opportunities to get on terms.

Sproule received a straight red card on 78 minutes before Andrew Waterworth's injury-time goal sealed Linfield's win.

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter opted to rest likely cross-channel target Gavin Whyte but the champions still make a fast start as O'Carroll and Heatley both rattled the crossbar in the opening five minutes.

Heatley's effort came after Blues keeper Jonathan Tuffey had struggled to deal with a firmly-hit back pass from Sean Ward on the uneven Oval surface.

The game was taking place at Glentoran's home venue because of the ongoing problems at Windsor Park which will mean the demolition of the West Stand.external-link

Linfield's players clap Crusaders out on to the pitch before the game at the Oval
Linfield's players and the match officials gave new champions Crusaders a guard of honour before the game

However after struggling over the opening quarter, the Blues took the lead on 24 as Sproule hammered home after Sean O'Neill had been unable to hold his initial effort.

Buoyed by the goal, Linfield doubled their advantage on 30 as Carvill turned superbly to fire past O'Neill after being afforded too much space by David Magowan.

As the champions appeared rattled, Stephen Lowry wasted two chances which could have put the game to bed before the interval.

Inevitably, Crusaders regrouped after the interval with Heatley producing delightful footwork to slot home on 47 minutes after being played in by half-time substitute Stephen O'Flynn.

As the Crues went more direct with O'Flynn joining Jordan Owens in attack, they produced a number of goal attempts with O'Carroll blazing their best chance over the crossbar.

O'Flynn also looked set to equalise but took an unnecessary extra touch as he attempted to round Tuffey and the Linfield keeper dived bravely to concede only a corner.

Sproule received his marching orders on 78 after appearing to raise his hands at Crusaders defender Craig McClean.

With the man advantage, Crusaders piled on the pressure in the closing stages with Owen firing straight at Tuffey and Sean Ward then doing brilliantly to clear a Heatley cross as the unmarked O'Flynn looked certain to level.

As the champions left gaps at the back, Waterworth ran clear of the impressive BJ Burns and Josh Robinson in injury-time before producing a clever finish past O'Neill.

Tuesday's other results

Championship 1

PSNI 1-3 Carrick Rangers

H&W Welders 0-1 Bangor

Dundela 1-0 Dergview

Championship 2

Coagh United 2-1 Glebe Rangers

Dollingstown 1-2 Lurgan Celtic

S&L Swifts 0-0 Annagh United

Mid-Ulster Cup Final

Dungannon Swifts 3-2 Armagh City (aet)

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