Crusaders won the Tennents Irish Cup for the fourth time in their history with a 3-0 win over Ballinamallard United at The National Stadium.
The game started well for Crusaders and they took control early on with John Connolly having to race out of his box to head clear. Richard Clarke also had a bit of work to do early on in defence also but it wasn't long before Crusaders broke the deadlock. Billy Joe Burns through his trademark cross into the box and it landed on Jordan Owens head and the big strikers header went over John Connollys outstretched arm and into the net after 6 minutes pitting Crusaders 1-0 up. United tried to hit nback immediately and they went close but the ball went the wrong side of the post for them. Crusaders then forced a few corners on the bounce but did not get anything from them but they kept at it. Jordan Forsythe fizzed a free kick inches wide on 20 minutes and was then working hard in defence just minutes later to keep United from shooting. Philip Lowry was unlucky when he tried to flick the ball past Connolly but the keeper manged to hold on to the ball and United survived again when they managed to clear a goalmouth scramble. Connolly then made a good save from Declan Caddell who had made a good run through but the keeper saved with his leg as Caddell tried to beat him a his near post. United where still plugging away and Philip Lowry made a great block tackle to stop United. Both sides had a few half chances but the half ended with Crusaders leading 1-0.
Whatever was said at half time in the Crusaders dressing room certainly worked as Crusaders went 2-0 up on 47 minutes. A corner was only half cleared by the United defence and as it dropped it fell to Philip Lowrys head and he managed to direct it past Connolly and his defenders into the net. Now with a two goal cushion Crusaders went close again as Paul Heatleys shot across goal went wide and the same player had a shot saved by Connolly minutes later. David Cushley was substituted on 52 minutes and Ross Clarke took his place and what an inspirational substitution it turned out to be. Just 60 seconds after coming Ross Clarke found himself unmarked in the box and Paul Heatley found him perfectly with his cut back and Clarke made no mistake from 9 yards and it put Crusaders 3-0 up after 53 minutes. The game fell into a period of quiet and neither side could create a chance with United free kick going wide probably the best chance. Jordan Owens headed over from a Crusaders free kick and Paul Heatley went close after a mistake in the United defence. United then wasted a good chance on 70 minutes and Michael Ruddy saw his shot go wide with 15 minutes left. United hit the outside of the post with a shot as the game started to draw to a close but the final 10 minutes created very little and with no injury time referee Ian McNabb blew the whistle and Crusaders had won the cup for the first time in 10 years.
Let the Celebrations begin....