Glentoran travelled to Seaview on Saturday off the back of a 2-1 victory at Moyola Park in the League Cup on Monday night however any hopes of kicking on from that win were well and truly misplaced as the Glens were flattered by the 1-0 reverse by full-time.
The Glens welcomed Aaron Hogg back into the side after a multitude of injuries had ruled the former Portadown 'keeper out for a number of months, whilst David Howland and Marcus Kane both started in what was a strong away side. Eddie Patterson's men hadn't won at Seaview in 3 years since a late Darren Boyce header on the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign, and the visitors seemed eager to put things right early on as some good early interplay and attacking intent unfortunately failed to convert into any chances.
After three minutes Paul Heatley was played through by Gary McCutcheon as the tone was set for the afternoon with the first of many long balls over the top to find the former Carrick Rangers man in acres of space, only for Hogg to block superbly at the ex-Carrick Rangers winger's feet. Five minutes later and it was Curtis Allen drawing a save out of Sean O'Neill in the Crusaders goal, with the number nine firing a right foot curler that was parried away by the 'keeper.
After 21 minutes Hogg was forced into an impressive double save from Jordan Owens and Gary McCutcheon, before excellently punching a Crusaders corner to safety whilst under pressure and making a smart save low to his right from the resulting cross. However, unfortunately after two silly challenges Colin Coates was presented with a free-kick on the edge of the box after 35 minutes; the defender blasting around the wall and into the corner.
After being bullied in midfield for the majority of the first half, Glentoran came out fighting in the second period though Heatley was again put through on 46 minutes only to be foiled by Hogg. 56 minutes in and Jay Magee met a Fra McCaffery corner, the ball ricocheted off a Crusaders defender and the big defender slammed his rebound wide - much to his own frustration. A minute later and it was Jordan Owens who couldn't convert a relatively easy chance as the towering forward nodded his header inches wide from a yard out.
Stephen McAlorum was next to have an effort as his left foot drive was easily gathered by O'Neill, before Heatley was thwarted by Hogg yet again after 64 minutes. A minute later and his fellow midfielder, David Howland, fired a looping shot from 30 yards that had O'Neill scrambling to tip over. With 11 minutes left on the clock substitute Jim O'Hanlon bamboozled Josh Robinson on the left wing, cut inside and was clearly contacted on two occasions before going down in the box - but referee Raymond Crangle decided a goal-kick to be the correct decision.
Two minutes later and Glentoran came closest to equalising as Allen's sublime low cross was inches away from being turned into his own net by Chris Morrow! Finally, on 88 minutes Allen went through on goal but O'Neill was out quickly and slid in to nick the ball from the ex-Coleraine striker's toe.
Sadly it was a case of too little too late, though had it not been for the heroics of Hogg Crusaders arguably could've scored 5 or 6. Some encouraging play though and next up is a tough test at home to Portadown on Tuesday night, kick off 7:45pm.
Glentoran: Hogg - Garrett Magee Birney Kane - Howland McAlorum - Scullion McCaffrey Stewart - Allen
Subs: Henderson for Garrett, O'Hanlon for Scullion & Nelson for McAlorum.
Subs Not Used: Addis, Gordon.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Highlights and manager's reaction on BBC Sport NI HERE