Glentoran got a long-standing monkey off our back and progressed to the semi-final after second half goals from Marcus Kane and Robbie McDaid gave us a thoroughly deserved 2-1 win over holders Crusaders in the Quarter Final of the Sadler’s Peaky Blinders Irish Cup at the Oval this afternoon.
Mick McDermott made four changes to last week’s starting line up with the suspended Seanen Clucas was replaced by Joe Crowe, Elliott Morris back in for Marijan Antolovic and Willie Garrett and Paul O’Neill replacing Conor Pepper and Elvio Van Overbeek respectively. The three strikers picked up front – McDaid and O’Neill either side of Ruaidhri Donnelly – demonstrated the manager’s intention to attack Crusaders in the very difficult conditions.
That strategy nearly paid up in the first minute when the three linked up superbly – O’Neill to Donnelly to create a chance for McDaid, but Robbie shot straight at the keeper, the sort of chances our top scorer has been putting away consistently all season.
The Glens definitely had the best of the first half hour with Navid Nasseri in particular setting up chance after chance that either didn’t fall for us or fell subject to an excellent performance by Billy Joe Burns in the centre of the Crues defence. Crusaders first real attempt on goal didn’t come until 27 minutes when a speculative shot from David Cushley was comfortably saved by a confident Elliott Morris.
Despite the stronger start by the Glens, there’s always a nervousness against Crusaders and that proved justified on 31 minutes when Cushley played a sublime pass to Jamie McGonigle on the left wing. McGonigle cut inside and hit a shot from outside the box. The glens goal didn’t look in any great difficulty until the shot took a heavy deflection off Willie Garrett to wrongfoot the entire defence and give first blood to the holders.
This setback seemed to dent the Glens’ confidence for the rest of the half, but the Crues were unable to capitalise on it with only an Owens header over the bar and another saved easily by Morris the visitors’ only serious threats.
Half Time: Glentoran 0-1 Crusaders
Many previous meetings this decade between these two teams have been determined by Crusaders making a brighter start to the second half. That wasn’t the case today as in the first fifteen minutes of the second half the Glens three good chances – two from McDaid and one from Donnelly – that were both saved by Gerard Doherty in the Crues’ goal. Elvio Van Overbeek replaced Paul O’Neill on our right flank after an hour and made a very positive contribution for the rest of the match.
There was a feeling that an equaliser was imminent, and it came on 67 minutes. A deep Willie Garrett throw in was headed by Jordan Owens as far as the excellent Joe Crowe who headed back into the Crues’ area. Gavin Peers controlled and slipped the ball to Marcus Kane and the skipper gave Doherty no chance with his well struck first time shot went straight into the corner of the Crusaders net. Game on!
For the next eighteen minutes it seemed that if there was to be a winner in normal time it could only come from the dominant Glens as Nasseri, Van Overbeek and Donnelly all had good efforts during the period. But it was 88 minutes before the winner came.
Elvio Van Overbeek passed to Robbie McDaid inside the Crusaders box. McDaid did very well to get to the by-line and get a cross in, but it was clearly hit out of play by the outstretched hand of Crusaders’ left back, Jarlath O’Rourke. The linesman didn’t flag for a penalty so referee Andrew Davey – who had kept the game flowing and under control – turned down the Glens players penalty claims and awarded a corner. He them consulted his fourth official, Raymond Crangle who informed him that it was indeed a handball. Penalty given! Mick McDermott said after the game that since it was a cup week, he’d had a group of players working on penalties, so it was to be given to whoever felt most confident. To his credit our tops scorer McDaid, who’d had a difficult day in front of goal, had the bottle to step up to drive it to Doherty’s right to give the Glens the lead for the first time. 2-1 Glens!
If there was any danger of Crusaders saving the game, that was blown apart by the inexplicable shenanigans of the next few minutes. Keith Cowan, who’d just come on as sub for Joe Crowe, saw many strange events in his lengthy League of Ireland career, can’t have seen many otherwise relatively calm games end in such a ridiculous manner.
First full back Jordan Forsythe got one of the craziest red cards imaginable for pushing a ballboy over on the running track at the start of the five minutes of injury time. Then Robbie McDaid was booked for dissent and Gerard Doherty booked for timewasting, All fairly regular football occurrences. Until Doherty then became the second Crusaders player to be given a straight red on top of a yellow. According to the referee, speaking to the BBC, the red was for violent conduct with “at least one” bottle thrown towards Glentoran supporters on the Sydenham End terrace. To finish the proceeds, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter also received a red for confronting the referee about something or other. Certainly, he was clearly very agitated.
So, it’s on to Cliftonville in the semi final in what we all hope will be a repeat of the 3-1 victory in the 2013 final, last time we met in the cup. In the meantime, many congratulations to our players and management for an excellent, professional and thoroughly deserved win today.
Full Time: Glentoran 2-1 Crusaders
Glentoran: Morris, Garrett, Kane (c), Peers, McClean, Gallagher, Crowe (Cowan 92), Nasseri, O'Neill (Van Overbeek 61), McDaid & Donnelly.
Photographs by PACEMAKER