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Crusaders Through To Shield Final

 By Stewart Robson

Crusaders made it to their third County Antrim Shield final in as many seasons overcoming a Larne side who just couldn’t find a breakthrough at Seaview.

Hundreds of Red and White Army fans descended on north Belfast to see their team put in a spirited display but it was the Hatchetmen who edged it in a close-knit affair.

On the pitch and on paper Crusaders dominated for the vast amount of the game, winning challenges in the air from the back and Michael Ruddy putting in a match of the match display. The Crues tallied more shots at goal and seven more on target than their counterparts.

In what was a scrappy first half, neither side seemed to be able to get into top gear. Crusaders looked organised and at ease but no goal came and Larne couldn’t really threaten despite looking good in parts.

The first real chance fell to match-winner Paul Heatley whose volley sailed straight down the middle of the goal with Larne keeper Michael Dougherty saving well.

Another powerful strike, this time from a Billy-Jo Burns effort after he was teed up by a Ross Clarke free-kick. A fizzing strike but it sailed over the bar.

Another couple of efforts from Heatley was as good as it got in the first 45.

Another Ross Clarke free-kick, curled over the top side of the crossbar in the second half. A great effort from a player who put in a solid display all night.

And it was Clarke who provided the assist for superstar Heatley to show how much of a threat in front of goal he can be. His cross met the head of the incoming number 22 who found the back of the net.

A professional display from the Crues who’ll have to wait just a little longer to find out who they’re to play in the final. Ballymena United v Linfield was called off due to the weather.

Larne’s spirits may be dampened, but it’s Crusaders on cloud nine ahead of Glentoran on Saturday.

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