Co Antrim Shield: Crusaders defeat Larne to make decider

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Heatley heads Crues into Shield final

Paul Heatley's second-half header gave Crusaders a 1-0 win over Championship leaders Larne in the Co Antrim Shield semi-final at Seaview.

Heatley twice went close and BJ Burns drilled over for the Crues in a tight, cagey first half in north Belfast.

The winger headed in from Ross Clarke's inswinging cross to put the Crues in front on 65 minutes and the hosts kept Larne at bay to progress.

The other semi-final between Ballymena United and Linfield was postponed.

Relive Tuesday night's Shield semi-final as it happened

Shield holders and Premiership champions Crusaders came into the game on the back of five straight wins while Larne, backed by significant financial investment, had won their last 10.

Larne showed that they can compete at the top level by going toe-to-toe with the Crues in terms of possession, but they lacked a cutting edge and rarely threatened.

Crusaders captain Colin Coates challenges Larne striker David McDaid at Seaview
Crusaders captain Colin Coates challenges Larne striker David McDaid at Seaview

Heatley sent a half-volley straight at former Crues keeper Michael Dougherty and he also fizzed wide before Burns drilled over from a free-kick.

These were merely half-chances in a far from thrilling first half, but Crusaders upped the pace on the restart.

Clarke curled a 20-yard free-kick just wide and Jordan Forsythe was also off-target with a long-range effort.

Larne midfielder Jeff Hughes found space for a shot but he could only find the hands of Harry Doherty.

It's celebration time for Paul Heatley after the winger scores against Larne at Seaview
It's celebration time for Paul Heatley after the winger scores against Larne at Seaview

The only goal arrived when Clarke, playing in an unusual forward position, picked out the run of Heatley and he powered his header beyond Dougherty.

Jordan Forsythe should have doubled the lead from another pinpoint Clarke cross but he connected with a shoulder instead of his head and the chance was gone.

Heatley's audacious half-volley from 30 yards was kept out by Dougherty as the Crues deservedly progressed to the final.

Elsewhere, Limavady United thumped Coleraine 5-0 in Tuesday night's North-West Cup semi-finals and they will be joined in the decider by Institute, who enjoyed a 2-0 home win over Ballinamallard United.

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