CRUSADERS 1 COLERAINE 0
Big Jordan Owens got the title party started at Seaview.
The giant striker grabbed his 20th goal of the season as Crusaders celebrated back to back Danske Premiership wins.
But it was a day the occasion overshadowed the game. It wasn’t a classic by any means, but the Crues supporters certainly enjoyed it.
It was hardly surprising boss Stephen Baxter named the same that retained the Gibson Cup, following the win over Cliftonville in midweek.
In contrast, Oran Kearney reshuffled his Coleraine side that consumed a thumping at Glenavon, drafting in Ruaiohri Higgins, David Ogilby, Darren McCauley, James McLaughlin and Brad Lyons, which meant the axe fall on Stephen Doublas, Sammy Morrow, Ruairi Harkin, Jamie McGonigle and Ian Parkhill.
Coleraine came looking the spoil the party and they almost forged in front on two minutes when Jamie McGonigle testing Sean O’Neill with a low drive that he did well to paw to safety.
Teenage sensation Gavin Whyte then took off an a dazzling 60 yard dash, leaving a posse of Coleraine defenders in his wake, but Chris Johns got down to save smartly at the base of the post.
In another lightning break, Johns was relieved to see a Paul Heatley flick header, from a Billy Joe Burns cross, flash inches past.
But the Crues finally broke the deadlock on 32 minutes. Heatley twisted and turned and his shot rebounded off the toe of David Ogilby for Owens, who blasted low into the bottom corner.
It was almost two second later, but this time Heatley’s blockbuster crashed against the crossbar.
The Bannsiders began to ask a few questions as the half progressed with Neil McCafferty looping a shot over the bar before James McLaughlin robbed David Magowan, but he could only shoot against the legs of Sean O’Neill.
Coleraine went looking for an equaliser in the second half with Neil McCafferty and James McLaughlin going close before Jamie McGonigle produced a magnificent piece of skill on the left only to hold his head in frustrating, seeing his shot crash off the post.
The Bannsiders were right out of luck seven minutes from time when McLaughlin burst clear only to see his shot hammer against the crossbar.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates (Mitchell 71), McClean, Whyte, Caddell (Clarke 86), Snoddy, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley (O’Carroll 90).
Unused subs: McKibbin, Carvill.
COLERAINE: Johns, Lyons (Morrow 73), Ogilby, Beverland, Mullan, McCauley (Parkhill 71), McCafferty (Law 63), Higgins, Brown, McLaughlin, McGonigle.
Unused subs: Doherty, Douglas.
REFEREE: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast).