A much changed Glentoran starting XI enjoyed a comfortable win against Crusaders today in our final game in the 2020-21 Danske Bank Premiership.
Skipper, Marcus Kane was the only player who started against Larne last Tuesday evening who was selected for today's game with manager, Mick McDermott opting to give others, including some of our younger prospects, an outing.
It made sense too with European qualification already confirmed and our visitors fron the north of the city opting to rest players ahead of thier play-off fixture against Cliftonville next week. Had Larne managed to take anything from their home fixture against Coleraine today the Glens would have finished in second place with a win but ultimately the Bannsiders secured the points so a home victory was Glentoran's primary objective.
The first real opportunity of the game came on 9 minutes when Ciaran O'Connor was taken down on the edge of the area. Andrew Mitchell took the free kick but was unlucky to see his powerful drive go inches past the post at the Sydenham End. Ben Cushnie was crudely taken down on the left touchline after showing a delightful piece of skill. A free kick was awarded but perhaps surprisingly, no card issued. On 20 minutes, careless play at the back by the Crues presented a chance to Seanan Clucas but he saw his shot saved by the legs of the visiting goalkeeper, Neil Shields.
Midway through the half a cross from the left was nodded down by Cameron Stewart but Ben Cushnie fired just over the bar. That was quickly followed by a cross from Marcus Kane. Cameron Stewart challenged the keeper who managed to punch the ball to the edge of the area where Mal Smith met it but couldn't hit the target. As the interval approached Marcus Kane tried his luck with his weaker left foot. The ball took a deflection off a defender though and made the save for Shields pretty routine. The final effort of the first 45 minutes came from Andrew Mitchell. He collected the ball on the right corner of the 18-yard box and cut inside before firing high and wide.
Halftime: Glentoran 0-0 Crusaders
A couple of minutes into the second half the Glens had the ball in the net. Andrew Mitchell's flick on to Cameron Stewart saw the big striker out-muscle the Crusaders defender and slot the ball home but the referee adjudged that Stewart had fouled his opponent. On 52 minutes a rare attack from the visitors resulted in a free kick about 25 yards from goal, with Marcus Kane picking up a yellow card for the challenge. Jack Patterson took the set piece but was well off target, failing to trouble Elliott Morris who was making his 743rd appearance. Stewart's pass to Clucas presented the Glens with another opportunity to open the scoring. Clucas opted to shoot and was off target when perhaps a better option would have been to try and pick out one of his team mates in the 6-yard box.
10 minutes into the second perion Ben Cushnie won a corner. Ciaran O'Connor swung it into the box but Marcus Kane couldn't direct his header goalwards. On the hour mark Cushnie fired over when well placed following an excellent cross from Mal Smith.
The opening goal finally arrived on 64 minutes. Andrew Mitchell did well on the right wing and put a great cross into the 6-yard box. Ben Cushnie rose highest and the 19 year old powered a header past Shields to make it 1-nil. Moments later Mal Smith almost made it two having been set up by Ciaran O'Connor but his low drive was well saved by Neil Shields.
The second Glentoran goal arrived on 76 minutes. Kieth Cowan played a long ball forward from midway inside his own half. Andrew Mitchell raced onto it and calmly slotted it past the Crues keeper. Game over! Marcus Kane and Ben Cushnie then linked well but the young forward's cross was deflected behind. Substitute Aaron Wightman almost marked his debut with a goal with 7 minutes remaining but his low drive from a narrow angle was turned behind for a corner.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Morris, Smith, Marron, Cowan, Kane (c) (McCarthy 86), Crowe, Clucas, O'Connor (Gorman 79), Cushnie, Stewart (Wightman 72) & Mitchell.