The Glentoran revival hit a bump in the road today as an in-form Crusaders put in a strong second half display to win the match very comfortably and extend our long winless record at Seaview.
With Gavin Peers still injured, we started unchanged from the team that beat Warrenpoint Town at the Oval last week. The match kicked off following a minute’s applause for journalist and Crues supporter Colin McAlpin who died recently.
The game was only eight minutes old when Crusaders took the lead. Joe Crowe misjudged the bounce of the ball in midfield and the ball broke to man of the match Ross Clarke on the right wing. Clarke got past Marcus Kane and put a pinpoint cross to Jordan Owens who rose above Conor Pepper to head home. A goal we’ve seen many times at Seaview over the past decade.
Jordan Owens scores Crusaders' opener
Glentoran had a great chance to equalise five minutes later when John Herron then Hrvoje Plum headed a long, accurate Stevie Gordon pass on to Paul O’Neill who did very well to beat the Crusaders defence. But Paul couldn’t get his shot on target, shooting high and wide past the far post.
Crusaders just about had the best of a relatively even first half with one of the biggest talking points a bad head gash for Robbie McDaid, apparently after being elbowed by Chris Hegarty. Robbie left the pitch for three minutes, returning with a bandage and wearing Tom Byrne’s number 17 shirt as his own was covered in blood from the wound.
Referee Keith Kennedy took no action against Hegarty until sixteen minutes later when the Crues centre back was booked for another elbow, this time on ‘keeper Marijan Antolovic. Goalscorer Owens was booked at the same time for a clash with Paddy McClean. Next in the book was Joe Crowe for a high feet challenge on Declan Caddell, a challenge very similar to one Caddell inflicted on Marcus Kane eighteen minutes earlier!
Half Time: Crusaders 1-0 Glentoran
There were no half time substitutions for either side, but the second half started along the same lines as so many previous Glens/Crues matches with the game virtually dead as a contest in the first twelve minutes.
A minute after the restart Rory Hale found Paul Heatley wide on the left. Heatley was in plenty of space and after cutting in from the wing, he let fly with a brilliant right foot shot that beat the whole Glens defence and the diving keeper. To be fair it was a finish of the quality very few players in the league other than Heatley could have scored. 2-0 Crusaders. This was followed a few minutes later by a double Glentoran substitution with Darren Murray and the returning Johnny Frazer replacing Crowe and O’Neill.
The killer blow came on 57 minutes and not for the first time there was more than a touch of controversy over Keith Kennedy’s decision to award a penalty. Jordan Owens took the ball down in the Glens’ box and as he turned to shoot, his shot rebounded off the back of the left shoulder of the falling Paddy McClean – who had his back to the shot and whose hands were both on the ground at this stage – onto the floor then up to hit the back of his right shoulder. Mr Kennedy had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and booking Paddy into the bargain. Billy Joe Burns converted the penalty, a sickening blow to Glens players and supporters. 3-0 Crusaders.
Jordan Owens wins a decisive penalty for Crusaders
On 63 minutes, Caddell was booked for a rough challenge on Elvio Van Overbeek that led to a clash of heads. From the resultant free kick, a typically accurate Plum effort hit the post and rebounded back to John Herron who converted very well with a turning right foot shot. 3-1.
Not long after the goal, the Glens had another great chance. Johnny Frazer made a great run into the box. His shot was blocked but when this one again rebounded to Herron this time it did so too quickly, and his instinctive header was blocked on the line. It would have made for a very interesting and potentially very different last 24 minutes had that one gone in.
At this stage there were some inconsistencies in the application of discipline. Darren Murray and Glens Assistant Head Coach Paul Millar were booked for questioning the referee, but soon afterwards Caddell was spared a second yellow for a very heavy challenge on Conor Pepper. Cameron Stewart replaced Robbie McDaid between these incidents.
Crusaders made the victory very convincing with two further late goals. On 77 minutes the dangerous Ross Clarke did brilliantly to beat Marcus Kane then timed his run into the box to deliver an inch perfect pass to the unmarked Owens who finished well. Then their final goal. Clarke took possession in the same position, again beat Kane, cut in and drilled in a low shot. Marijan Antolovic – who was blameless for the other goals – was well down for it but fumbled it and in it went to make the score 5-1.
Glens goalscorers Herron and Plum
There were two further incidents of note. First, Cameron Stewart made a strong run deep into the Crusaders area and held the ball up well. But he was isolated due to lack of support from teammates and was eventually forced to shoot. Then, in the last minute of injury time, Hrvoje scored his trademark free kick. This time hit hard and low, just inside the far post.
All in all, we can have no complaints about this result. We came up against a very good team playing very well. From the start we lost the midfield battle to Hale, Lowry and Caddell. That in turn gave Clarke and Heatley a lot of freedom on the wings to the point where four of the five Crusaders goals came from out wide. A disappointing day where we fell from fifth to sixth place, and the sort of defeat we will need to recover quickly from as we continue to improve throughout the season. We have a perfect opportunity to do so on Friday night against Cliftonville at the Oval.
Full Time: Crusaders 5-2 Glentoran
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Antolovic, Pepper, Kane (c), Gordon, McClean, Crowe (Murray 55), Herron, Plum, Van Overbeek, O'Neill (Frazer 55) & McDaid (Stewart 71).