Two goals from Shay McCartan gave Glentoran victory in tonight's Danske Bank Premiership game at the Bet McLean Oval. The win made it three in a row for new manager, Rodney McAree; 9 points, 11 goals scored and just 1 conceded.
It was the same starting XI that kicked off against Dungannon Swifts just under a week ago. Paddy McClean was due back from his one-match suspension but a heel injury kept him out of tonight's squad. There were welcome returns to the bench though for Seanan Clucas and James Singleton.
The game itself won't live long in the memory. It was a hard fought, ill-tempered affair and it was perhaps surprising that we ended with 22 players still on the pitch. The visitors had the first opportuntiy with just 5 minutes played. A cross from Jude Winchester on the left was headed goalwards by Declan Caddell and Aaron McCarey did really well to get a hand to the ball and turn it onto the post. Crusaders regained possession though and when the ball was returned into the area, Caddell got his head to it again but on this occasion it was a really comfortable save for the Glentoran keeper.
On 8 minutes we witnessed some excellent link up play on the Glentoran left between Niall McGinn and Shay McCartan before Glentoran's number 7 fired the ball into Jay Donnelly in the penalty area. Unfortunately wasn't able to bring it under control and get an attempt in on goal. On the quarter hour mark McCartan picked the ball up in midfield and drove to the right corner of the 18-yard box before crossing into the danger area. Jay Donnelly got on the end of it but his header was straight at Jonathan Tuffey in the Crusaders' goal.
Midway through the half Shay McCartan was leading the Glentoran attack once more. The ball broke kindly for Aaron Wightman but his goalbound strike deflected off Daniel Larmour and over the bar for a corner. Then on 29 minutes Bobby Burns fired a free kick into the box. Marcus Kane met it but again the header was straight at Tuffey.
Halftime: Glentoran 0-0 Crusaders
The Glens struck early in the second half; Shay McCartan finding the net on each occasion. The half was just a minute old when a superb long ball from Luke McCullough was flicked on by Jay Donnelly. McCartan raced onto it but Jonathan Tuffey was quickly out to deny the Glens an opening goal. From the resulting corner Adam Lecky's clearance only found Jay Donnelly on the edge of the area. He squared the ball to Rhys Marshall and his shot took a deflection before reaching McCartan who put it past Tuffey. 1-nil Glentoran! Crusaders might have drawn level on 49 minutes when Jarlath O'Rourke was through on goal but McCarey did superbly to turn O'Rourke's effort around the post.
On 53 minutes Declan Caddell pulled down Shay McCartan around 25 yards from goal. It was the sort of challenge that normally sees a yellow card produced but with Caddell already on a yellow for a poor challenge on Bobby Burns earlier in the game, referee Tony Clarke opted not to produce another! McCartan exacted his own revenge though smashing the free kick goalwards and although Tuffey got a hand to it, he couldn't keep it out. 2-nil Glentoran. Immediately after the goal Rory Donnelly replaced Aaron Wightman with Crusaders also taking off Caddell.
There were few clear cut chances in the final half hour or so. Crusaders had plenty of possession but the resolute Glentoran back line of Marshall, McCullough, Wilson and Kane stood firm. Referee Clarke had several more unsavoury incidents to deal with and in total, 8 yellow cards were produced, 5 of them for the visitors. A couple of minutes from time a foul by substitute Seanan Clucas on Jordan Owens gave the Crues a free kick around 25 yards from goal. Jordan Forsythe's effort was on target but drilled straight at Aaron McCarey.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Kane (c), McCullough, Wilson, Burns (Clucas 83), Devlin, McCartan (Crowe 83), Wightman (R. Donnelly 54), J. Donnelly & McGinn (Singleton 75).