Linfield players celebrate clinching the title for the 53rd time (©INPHO/Brian Little)

LINFIELD CLAIM 53rd LEAGUE TITLE

Linfield are Danske Bank Premiership champions for the 53rd time following this scoreless draw with outgoing holders Crusaders at Windsor Park.

Coupled with Ballymena United failing to defeat Cliftonville at Solitude it means the Blues clinched the title with three games to spare.

The game itself wasn't a memorable affair by any stretch of the imagination, although both sides did show some promise inside the opening quarter-of-an-hour with Ronan Hale and then Daniel Kearns trying their luck from distance.

Hale did have the ball in the net midway through the half but his volley was ruled out after the whistle had already blown for an infringement in the box.

Perhaps the best chance of the half arrived soon after when Philip Lowry tested Linfield keeper Gareth Deane with a glancing header from Paul Heatley's cross with the home stopper producing a great reaction save.

And Deane was called into action again early in the second half when he rushed out to make the block after Heatley's pace had taken him clear of the defence on the counter attack.

Linfield had a gilt-edged opportunity to break the deadlock on 53 minutes when Howard Beverland was adjudged to have handled into the box but Jordan Stewart's spot-kick was well saved by the outstretched Gerard Doherty.

Ryan McGivern then went close when he connected to Niall Quinn's corner but, again, Doherty was on hand to make the save while Stephen Fallon also had a chance not long after only to scuff his left-foot shot wide.

Stewart might have secured all three points in the closing moments with a dipping volley from outside the area which fizzed just wide of the post.

Linfield: Deane, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart, Kearns, Mulgrew, McGivern, Mitchell, Quinn, Casement subs Mitchell (not used), Stafford (not used), Millar (replaced Cooper 76), Clarke (not used), McClean (not used), Fallon (replaced Mitchell 59), Cervenka (replaced Kearns 84)

Crusaders: G. Doherty, Beverland, Coates, Lowry, Ward, Cushley, Caddell, Ruddy, Heatley, Clarke, Rn. Hale subs H. Doherty (not used), Forsythe (replaced Coates 74), K. Owens (not used), J. Owens (replaced Cushley 75), Thompson (not used), Patterson (not used), Rr. Hale (not used)

Referee: Ian McNabb

Attendance: 2790

Tags:  Crusaders  Linfield