Baxter hails 'scintillating' Crusaders after Glentoran rout
Glentoran 0 Crusaders 3
Manager Stephen Baxter last night labelled his team's performance 'a masterclass' as Crusaders bared their title teeth at The Oval.
It was an almost perfect display in front of a watching Sky Sports audience. A delicious double from Rodney Brown - his first goals for the club - and a sizzler from Jordan Owens took the sting out of this contest long before the final whistle.
It's been three and a half years since Crusaders went three successive league games without a win, so they had a point to prove after drawing with Ards and Dungannon Swifts.
"I thought we were scintillating over the 90 minutes," declared Baxter. "We were very good. Our overall performance and game management were superb.
"We took a good team apart. After drawing with Ards and Dungannon, I asked the boys for a big reaction. I wanted us to be more ruthless and the boys didn't let me down - it was a masterclass.
"Everything came together. Our quality of passing, our work rate and our finishing were all top notch. We should have been five up at half-time. Glentoran just didn't know how to cope with us, so we have to be happy."
Had it been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped this contest long before the half-time interval. Gary Haveron's boys appeared to freeze under the glare of live television.
Crusaders actually had the ball in the net on three minutes when Elliott Morris beat out a shot from Paul Heatley and Owens finished it off, but the assistant had already flagged for an offside infringement.
Glentoran were being totally pinned in their own half. Heatley's 20-yard shot failed to trouble Morris and, seconds later, Brown's free-kick was knocked on by Owens for Gavin Whyte to drill inches past the post.
The breakthrough duly arrived on 11 minutes. Michael Carvill's teasing cross from the left was met by Brown and his header ballooned the net.
There was just no let up. The Crues were out of luck 10 minutes before the break when Whyte took off on a solo run before unleashing the most delicious of shots from 30 yards that left the crossbar wobbling.
Whyte and Philip Lowry worked another bit of magic on the left and when the ball fell to Billy Joe Burns, his drive brought a response from Morris.
The home fans were given a glimmer of hope when Curtis Allen fired in the Glens' first attempt, but his shot arrowed hopelessly over the crossbar.
Crusaders required just three minutes after the restart to grab a killer second goal - and it was almost a replica of the first.
Carvill again whipped in the inviting cross and Brown climbed high at the back post to send the ball past Morris.
Owens then produced a coup de grace on 55 minutes to secure the points. Burns hared down the right before sending in an inch-perfect cross for the big striker to power home with a flick of his head - it was that easy.
That ended the match as a contest. The Crues took their foot off the gas, and the Glens embarked on a damage limitation exercise.
They did produce a token response 14 minutes from time when substitute Tiernan McNicholl crossed for Robbie McDaid, whose header was easily plucked by Brian Jensen, but it did manage to draw sarcastic applause from the home fans.
Glentoran: Morris, Kane, Birney, Addis, Kelly (Knowles 52), Allen, McGuigan, McMullan(McNicholl 46), Kerr, Redman, McDaid.
Unused subs: Delaney, McCawl, Smith.
Crusaders: Jenson, Burns, Coates, Brown, Lowry (Glackin 85), Carvill (Forsythe 64) Owens, Whyte (Snoddy 79), Ward, Heatley, Caddell.
Unused subs: Beverland, Cushley
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)
Results last night: Glentoran 0 Crusaders 3 Fixtures to come Saturday (3pm): Ards v Glentoran, Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town, Dungannon Swifts v Ballymena United.