Glentoran recovered from conceding an early goal in North Belfast to win for the second time in four days this evening and in so doing won back-to-back games at Seaview for the first time since April 2008!
The Glens starting line-up had three enforced changes from Monday night’s win at Solitude. The suspended Seanan Clucas was replaced in midfield by the in-form Joe Crowe, while the Donnelly brothers were sadly unable to play following the passing of their mother, Patricia, earlier this week. Rory was replaced by Conor McMenamin, available again following suspension, while the absence Of top scorer Jay gave Michael O’Connor his first start since signing from Shelbourne.
In a similar pattern to Monday night, the Crues took an early lead when Josh Robinson headed a Ben Kennedy corner home on twelve minutes. In the first incident on an evening where the match officials were never far from supporters of each team’s thoughts, Aaron McCarey was booked in the aftermath for protesting that Kennedy’s corner had gone out of play (television evidence seems to justify his protest). A minute later the Glens could be said to be lucky not to have conceded a penalty when Kennedy went down in the box after a challenge from skipper Paddy McClean.
The other main incidents of note in the first half were a great save by McCarey from a Jordan Forsythe header on fifteen minutes and thirteen minutes later a fluent move involving Conor McMenamin and Bobby Burns on the left flank when Crues’ keeper Tuffey beat Michael O’Connor to Burns’ cross.
Conor McMenamin with the black armband worn tonight in respect of Mrs Patricia Donnelly
Half Time: Crusaders 1-0 Glentoran
Glentoran had the perfect start to the second half. The half was just two minutes old when a great pinpoint long ball from Paddy McClean found Conor McMenamin on the left flank. Conor Mac easily brushed off the attentions of Robinson and Daniel Larmour to burst into the box and blast the ball past Tuffey for the equaliser. A goal we’ve seen Conor score on quite a few occasions so far this season.
The next few minutes were dominated by refereeing decisions. First the Glens had a penalty claim turned down when the ball struck the arm of Aidan Wilson from another McMenamin effort. TV evidence was inconclusive. Then Billy Joe Burns was booked for a foul on his namesake Bobby just outside the Crusaders penalty box. Three minutes later the Glens had what looked like a stonewall penalty refused when – again from a McMenamin cross – Michael O’Connor was clearly pushed in the back by Daniel Larmour.
On 54 minutes came a pivotal decision, when the ref had no hesitation in giving a straight red card to Crues’ new signing Jude Winchester, for the sort of lunging tackle on Joe Crowe that invariably leads to dismissal in the modern game. This left Crusaders with 35 minutes to play with a man down.
The Glens’ made their advantage show on 64 minutes. Conor McMenamin, involved in everything this half, took a pass from Bobby Burns, easily cut past two defenders and sent in the perfect cross for Robbie McDaid to rise perfectly and give Tuffey no chance with his pinpoint header. 2-1 Glens and cue for the outstanding and very noisy Glens’ support to go into overdrive with their singing.
The action and tension weren’t over, however as on 80 minutes Aaron McCarey followed his heroics at Solitude with an instinctive point blank save from Paul Heatley. Plus the Crues had brought on strikers Jordan Owens and Johnny McMurray in an effort to snatch an equaliser. Not long afterwards came the final two high profile refereeing decisions. Firstly Crusaders Manager Stephen Baxter was shown a straight red card, presumably for dissent from the sideline, then immediately afterwards Glens substitute Andrew Mitchell inexplicably had a free kick awarded against him despite being hauled to the ground by two Crues defenders well into the Crusaders penalty area. The final incident was a great goal line clearance from Sean Murray by Jordan Forsythe after a brilliant run and pass from Rhys Marshall.
This result keeps the Glens in second place on goal difference from Linfield with the Blues at home to Glenavon tomorrow. Cliftonville’s win at Larne seems to have opened a bit of a gap between the top three, as fourth placed Crusaders are now eight points behind third placed Reds and ten behind the Glens, albeit with a game in hand. What a final third of the league campaign lies ahead of us! Next up for the Glens is a visit to the Bet McLean Oval by sixth placed Coleraine on Tuesday night.
Full Time: Crusaders 1-2 Glentoran
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Burns, Marron McClean (c), Crowe, Plum, Murray, McDaid, M. O’Connor (Mitchell 78) & McMenamin (Garrett 90)