Prior to kick off both teams observed a minute's silence in memory of those who tragically and needlessly lost their lives in Paris last night.
Alan Kernaghan’s first game in charge of Glentoran ended in a 3-0 defeat to Crusaders at Seaview today. Glentoran finished the game with 9 men after Marcus Kane and Niall Henderson were both dismissed after each receiving two yellow cards. The former Clyde and Dundee manager couldn’t have asked for a tougher start than a visit to the League Champions, Crusaders have not lost in the league since the opening day and haven’t conceded at home in the League since then also. Indeed the Glens have struggled against the Shore Road side in recent years. Despite enjoying 1-0 wins in both last season’s Irish Cup semi-final and this season’s Charity Shield, Glentoran had won just 1 of the last 16 league meetings between the two sides.
Kernaghan made two changes to the side that won at Ballymena last week, Niall Henderson and Jonny Smith came in for Steven McCullough and the injured William Garrett. His reign nearly got off to the worst possible start as Jordan Owens fired over from a Paul Heatley cutback within 10 seconds of the start. Two minutes into the game Steven Gordon was booked by referee Mervyn Smyth for a trivial incident with Heatley, this seemed to set the tone for the first half which saw 7 yellow cards brandished.
The home side dominated the first half and almost took the lead 8 minutes into the game when Jordan Owens left a cross for the overlapping Billy Joe Burns who controlled and shot past Elliot Morris only to see his attempt crash off the near post. The pressure continued shortly after with Owens heading over with the visiting defenders looked for an offside flag that never came. After a quarter of an hour Heatley forced the first save of the day forcing Morris to palm away his 20 yard effort.
Glentoran didn’t really trouble home goalkeeper Sean O’Neill in the first half, after 20 minutes Jim O’Hanlon was fed by Curtis Allen’s good hold up play and he nearly worked his way through, but a last ditch tackle snuffed out the chance. The play became scrappy thereafter with Craig Mclean, Richard Clarke, Jonny Addis, Marcus Kane and Jim O’Hanlon all picking up bookings. Crusaders still well on top but they didn’t create another clear-cut chance until 5 minutes before half time when they made the breakthrough. Paul Heatley was played through the Glentoran defence and ran unopposed the length of the half before slotting the ball across Morris and into the left bottom corner of the net to give Crusaders the lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Glentoran when less than a minute after the goal Marcus Kane was sent off after receiving his second caution following a foul on Jordan Owens. Whilst there could be little argument about Kane's first yellow card the second was harsh. Referee Smyth was surrounded by Crusaders players with Snoddy in particular anxious to get a fellow player sent off! Disappointing behaviour to say the least. The home side almost made it 2-0 before the interval as Colin Coates headed over from the resulting free kick and Richard Clarke also cleared Morris’ crossbar with a right footed effort. Indeed Glentoran were perhaps fortunate to only be one behind after a half dominated by the league leaders. Halftime Crusaders 1-0 Glentoran.
Glens boss Kernaghan brought Steven McCullough on for Jim O’Hanlon as part of a halftime re-organisation and after an early Heatley chance they took control for a spell despite being down to 10 men. 5 minutes into the second half Curtis Allen had Glentoran’s best chance of the game, Stephen McAlorum sprayed a through ball into the striker’s path but O’Neill saved well as Allen tried to slide the ball past the Crusaders keeper. The Glens continued their good start to the half with McAlorum firing over from the resulting corner.
The Crues had the ball in the net for a second time 10 minutes into the half but Jordan Owens was adjudged to be offside. However this was a blip in a period of Glentoran pressure, defender Barry Holland almost levelled with a spectacular 25 yard effort after he was set up by good work from Gordon and McAlorum but O’Neill dived to tip the ball over just as it seemed destined for the top corner. The visitors forced 4 consecutive corners but couldn’t find the equaliser, McAlorum coming closest with another 20 yard drive that stung the palms of O’Neill as he turned it round the post. On the hour mark, however, came what was perhaps the decisive moment of the match. Niall Henderson was dismissed for allegedly handling the ball to stop a Crusaders break. Henderson claimed to have used his shoulder but Smyth disagreed and showed him his second yellow card in the space of 4 minutes, Barry Holland was also cautioned for his protests.
Crusaders made their numeric advantage tell in the 70th minute when the unmarked Jordan Forsythe volley Craig McLean’s cross spectacularly beyond Morris. This happened against the run of play but seemed inevitable given the home side’s two man advantage. From that point the game petered out with the home side content to settle, Coates and Heatley came closest to making it three with long range attempts. Unfortunately for the Glens the third goal eventually came as substitute Stephen O’Flynn clipped Heatley’s 90th minute cross into the net. Full Time Crusaders 3-0 Glentoran.
A strange game played in awful conditions during which both teams had good spells but Crusaders deservedly claimed the three points. Glentoran will rue the dismissals, particularly the second as it followed a spell of excellent work from the visitors. Kane and Henderson will of course be suspended for Wednesday night’s trip to Solitude when we take on Cliftonville in the quarter final of the JBE League Cup.
Glentoran: Morris, Gordon, Holland, Addis, Kane, McAlorum, Henderson, O’Hanlon (sub McCullough 46), Caldwell (sub Cafolla 82), Smith (sub McCaffrey 68), Allen.
Subs not used: Hogg, Hamill
Photographs by Thomas Sewell