Crusaders forward Paul Heatley scored a miracle goal by beating Linfield in the White Ribbon Charity Tournament and then backed the David Healy boys to make the Irish League proud of its Europe.
It took the 34-year-old just two minutes after being introduced in the game to open his goalscoring account for the season before new boyfriend Rory McKeown landed a second killing blow.
Linfield, of course, has more important things to do in the form of a vital Europa League third qualifying round meeting against Zurich on Thursday night when they try to close the 2-0 gap.
But Heatley urged the Blues to “make the pride of the Irish League” again.
“We will all be rooting for Linfield to reach the Europa League or Europa League group stage this season,” Heatley said.
“They will not only put themselves on the map, but also the Irish League.
“The rivalry will be postponed in the coming weeks. We will all be rooting for Linfield, hoping that they can achieve something really great for this league.
“It is improving year by year. I think in five years it will be really high-octane, high-intensity football.”
Heatley broke the deadlock in the 68th minute. He was given time and space inside the penalty area and, spotting David Walsh slightly out of his line, fired a brilliant shot into the top corner.
Then four minutes later, he switched to an ISP.
After receiving a pass from Jude Winchester, he lashed out at Linfield’s defense and then lunged at McKeown, who rammed from six yards.
“I was rushing off the bench,” Heatley said.
“I think the game was perfect for an attacking player, if it was me or someone else, because it was really an open game.
“It’s always nice to score a goal – it was great to see him get into the top corner. Sometimes they end in the z line.”
Heatley praised fellow substitute Winchester for playing a big part in the second goal.
“Jude came in and was in charge of midfield for the last half hour,” Heatley added.
“He found himself in space and sent me a beautiful slide rule. I didn’t have to do very much other than cut it down for Rory. Huge credit to him because he ran 50 yards to get into this position. I think his performance showed that he will be a great asset to our club.
“This game was a good test for us, just what we needed before the opening game of the League next week.
“Of course it was cheeky at times, we don’t know anything else in the Irish League, it’s not in our nature. Many of our guys had the opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of, and they were not disappointed. We can certainly learn a lot from the game and it will give the manager something to think about.”
Although Blues boss Healy had one eye on the European return game against Zurich on Thursday night, he wasn’t entirely happy with what was on offer, even as he made 11 changes to his team.
“Honestly, I didn’t get much out of the game,” he said.
“Our performance was not up to the required standard that we had hoped for. There were moments in the game that were okay. But, firstly, it was not the result we wanted.
“We felt that the team we chose had to be good enough to get better, so that was disappointing. With so many attacking players that we had on the field, we didn’t work enough with their goalkeeper.
“We have made 11 substitutions, so I don’t want to be too hard on the players who came. The bottom line is that we did not meet the required standards.
“Now our focus is on Thursday night’s European match in Switzerland, which will be another big test for us, but we will enjoy it.”
LINFIELD: Walsh, Newberry, Millar, Cooper, Stewart, McKee (McClean, 67 min.), Divine (Verteinen, 67 min.), Pepper, Quinn (Shields, 22 min.), E. Clarke (M. Clarke, 67 min. ), Palmer (Mulgrew, 67 minutes). Unused subtitles: Jones, Archer.
CRESTERS: Tuffy, Burns (Foresight, 46 minutes), Robinson (Hegarty, 88 minutes), Weir (Winchester, 46 minutes), Lowry, Kennedy, Leckie (Clark, 58 minutes), Abbe, Larmor, McKeown, McMurray (Heatley, 66 minutes ). ). Unused subtitles: O’Rourke, Pauley.
Referee: Christopher Morrison