A very strong, confident performance from at the Bet McLean Oval Glentoran tonight was overshadowed by a second half refereeing decision that had a major impact on the momentum and possibly outcome of the game.
Warren Feeney made two changes from Saturday’s win at Ballymena as the fit again Bobby Burns and Aidan Wilson returned to the starting line-up. Skipper Marcus Kane missed out following his injury in the Ballymena game and Cammy Palmer dropped to the bench.
The Glens started the brighter of the two teams but found themselves a goal down on 15 minutes. Crusaders defender Daniel Larmour got in front of the home defence to glance home a well hit corner.
However, unlike so many previous occasions against the same opposition over the past decade, Glentoran were not put badly out of their stride by the Crues’ opener. As a result the equaliser came within five minutes. Daire O’Connor took a quick, short throw-in on the Glens’ right flank to Bobby Burns. Burns burst into the Crusaders box, took one touch then hit a perfect cross which was met by Jay Donnelly who nodded home with a textbook header. No more than Glentoran deserved.
Glentoran continued to have the better of the possession and chances against a resolute Crusaders defence, but three minutes after the goal came a decision that was to prove pivotal for the match outcome. Bobby Burns appeared to win the ball cleanly in a 50:50 with Philip Lowry but was shown his first yellow card of the night.
Half Time : Glentoran 1-1 Crusaders
The Glens started the second half as they finished the first, with Like McCullough having an effort just over the Crues’ bar. But Glentoran – already injury ravaged so early in the season - lost James Singleton on 58 minutes. Singo was replaced by Cammy Palmer with Bobby Burns moving to left back.
Aaron McCarey had to pull off a couple of very good saves before Glentoran took the lead. Junior and Jordan Forsythe went for the same ball in the Crusaders area but Forsythe’s feet were too high and caught the Glens’ striker in the face. Not a malicious incident but a clear penalty that referee Crangle had no hesitation awarding while also booking Forsythe. Shay McCartan, having one of his best games in a Glentoran shirt in his central role, had no hesitation in grabbing the ball and hitting comfortably home for his first goal of the season and a deserved lead for Glentoran.
The pivotal incident in the game came four minutes later. Bobby Burns set off to take a corner but was quickly called off by his manager to leave it to Shay McCartan. Inexplicably the referee booked Burns for time wasting, the second yellow leading to a red and leaving the Glens to play the last 19 minutes a man short. Warren Feeney was then given a straight red, presumably for remonstrating with the fourth official over the Burns dismissal.
Jonny Russell then came on at left back, as the Glens dug in to try to hold on to their lead. Glentoran defended well but with two minutes of normal time left the Crues equalised. A pinball like incident in the Glens 6-yard box ended with the ball going in off Jordan Owens, his 20th career goal against Glentoran.
There was still time for more drama as Forsythe was sent-off for a second yellow card on 90 minutes but neither side could force a winner in the six minutes of additional time that followed.
Final Score : Glentoran 2-2 Crusaders
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Wilson, Singleton (Palmer 60), McCullough (c), McClean, Sule, Burns, McCartan (Kelly 81) , O’Connor (Russell 74), Junior, J. Donnelly
Subs (Not used): Webber, McGinn, Boyd, Walsh