Ten-man Larne suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Crusaders on Tuesday evening, with Adam Lecky scoring a second half hat-trick for the visitors.
Fuad Sule’s dismissal on the half hour mark gave the home side an uphill task against an away side who were also looking to get back to winning ways.
It was Crusaders who got off to a bright start and they almost took the lead when they pounced a loose piece of play from the home side. The ball made its way out to Heatley on the left flank and he cut inside before curling an effort past Conor Devlin, but struck the inside of the post before being cleared to safety.
The home side’s night got worse with half an hour gone, when they were reduced to 10 men.
After an off the ball tussle between Declan Caddell and Fuad Sule, the latter received his marching orders. Referee Raymond Crangle, after consulting with his assistant, produced a yellow and then red card as Sule was sent off.
This further strengthened the visitors’ grip on the game, but it took until the 40th minute to really threaten the scoreline.
This time Heatley turned provider as he swung in a corner from the right flank, which was met by Phiip Lowry’s clever flick at the front post, and kept out by Devlin’s quick reflexes down to his right.
Larne boss Tiernan Lynch made a change at the break, introducing forward Johnny McMurray for midfielder Conor McKendry as they made a bid to get more of a foothold in the game.
However, it failed to change the momentum of the game at the start of the second period with Crusaders asking all the questions in front of goal.
The deadlock was broken in the 54th minute when Adam Lecky eventually swept home at the second time of asking.
Leading the charge the big forward slipped he ball out right to Jordan Forsythe, before meeting he cross in the middle. His first attempt inside the box was bravely blocked by Josh Robinson, but the ball broke to Lecky and he made no mistake from the rebound 10 yards out.
With Crusaders turning the screw at this point, the visitors will be wondering how they didn’t double their lead a minute later.
A combination of post and yet more quick reflexes from Conor Devlin kept at bay as he saved from Heatley, before Declan Caddell’s follow-up hit the outside of the post.
The lead was doubled with 69 minutes gone when a neat move down the left from Crusaders, involving Kennedy and Heatley, resulted in Lecky finding himself in acres of space inside the box and he made no mistake by slotting the ball into the bottom right corner, past the stranded Devlin.
The Crues were moving the ball around with a lot of confidence at this point, and Ben Kennedy tried to get his name on the scoresheet in spectacular fashion when he set a curling effort off the top of the crossbar from the right angle of the penalty area.
Kennedy did have a part to play in the third goal, on 76 minutes, however. His pass out to his left found Paul Heatley and, after his pace took him to the byline, he flashed a low ball across the face of goal to find Lecky at the back post and the striker tapped in for his treble.
The closest the home side came to registering a goal was when Johnny McMurray dragged a low effort just wide, after good work from John Herron in the middle of the park.
Larne: Devlin, Cosgrove, Watson, Robinson, Kelly, Sule, Herron, A Mitchell, Randall (Lynch ’75, McKendry (McMurray ’45) Hale (Wade Slater ’66)
Unused subs: C Mitchell, Scott, Mottley-Henry, Hughes
Crusaders: Tuffey, Burns, Hegarty, Weir, Lowry, Kennedy, Caddell, (McGonigle ’78), Forsythe, O’Rourke (Ruddy ’80), Lecky, Heatley (McGinley ’85)
Unused subs: O’Neill, Cushley, Owens, Larmour
Referee: Raymond Crangle