Aaron Burns (21)

1

Mark Haughey and Declan Caddell rise for a header (Picture: Stephen Hamilton/PressEye.com)

BLUES CLOSE IN ON CRUES

Linfield closed the gap on leaders Crusaders to a point following this victory at Windsor Park as the title race gathered momentum.

After a cagey opening quarter-of-an-hour Howard Beverland had the first effort of note but he couldn't direct his header past Roy Carroll.

Linfield moved in front on 21 minutes after Aaron Burns stabbed the ball home from a low Matthew Clarke cross, showing great determination to get the touch.

Then, after half-an-hour, Andrew Waterworth came close to adding a second when he knocked the ball against an upright after Beverland had failed to cut out a Burns cross from the left.

Chris Casement then tested Crues 'keeper Sean O'Neill with a curling 25-yard free-kick which was well saved.

After the break Paul Heatley went on a run through the home defence but the end product drifted wide of the target while, at the other end, Niall Quinn's low effort was deflected away.

Burns might have added a second after the hour but O'Neill managed to keep out his header.

Heatley threatened again after going one-on-one with Carroll but was denied by superb stop before, in the closing moments, Kirk Millar crossed for Burns but O'Neill again blocked his effort.

Linfield: Carroll, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry, Burns, Clarke, Casement, Mulgrew, Quinn, Smyth subs Millar (replaced Smyth 88), Ward (replaced Casement 86), Carson (not used), Gaynor (not used), Strain (not used)

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Lowry, Mitchell, Carvill, Caddell, Forsythe, McClean, Heatley, Whyte subs Cushley (replaced Lowry 28), Dougherty (not used), Clarke (replaced Mitchell 85), Brown (not used), Suarez (replaced Whyte 76)

Referee: Ian McNabb

Tags:  Crusaders  Linfield