Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter was full of praise for his players after they blew away Glenavon last night.
Baxter looked on from the stand as his men carved open the Lurgan Blues and returned to form in impressive fashion.
Although the Crues boss is now being linked with the manager’s job at Glentoran, Baxter is remaining focused on the challenges ahead on the Shore Road.
“We dominated the game and gave Glenavon few chances,” he said. “We weren’t threatened much during the game and the players produced one of their best performances of the season.”
The Crues shook off their County Antrim Shield hangover in style in the Sky televised encounter at Seaview.
Since lifting the glittering prize, the Hatchetmen had netted only one point out of a possible 12 but goals from Martin Donnelly, Ross Arthurs and a late strike from Ryan McCann sealed a comfortable 3-0 win.
Crusaders did the early pressing and Colin Coates’ shot flashed wide of the upright after clever wing play from Martin Donnelly.
Ross Arthurs was also offered a sight at goal but his drive was straight at goalkeeper Andy Plummer. Former Cliftonville midfielder Barry Johnston tried his luck from 25 yards but the ball sailed over the target.
On 11 minutes Donnelly picked out Chris Morrow in the six yard box but the midfielder’s header was too close to Plummer.
At the other end Trevor Molloy tested the concentration level of goalkeeper Chris Keenan with an angled drive. Morrow missed a golden opportunity to net the opener when he rose high to meet a teasing cross from Donnelly but headed the ball over the woodwork from close range.
But Crusaders did break the deadlock in the 26th minute. Johnston’s careless square ball in the penalty area ran to Donnelly and the Northern Ireland under-21 winger drilled a low shot into the net off Plummer’s far post.
The home side doubled their lead in the 38th minute. David McMaster’s cross fell to Donnelly whose header was blocked but Ross Arthurs pounced to rifle the ball into the net from close range.
Jordan Owens was then sent clear with only Plummer to beat but after knocking the ball beyond the shot-stopper, the angle became too tight and his shot flew wide. After the break, Arthurs should have netted from close range but Plummer made an excellent point blank save.
But a convincing victory was sealed in the 91st minute when Ryan McCann drilled a superb low angled drive into the corner of Plummer’s net.
CRUSADERS: Keenan, McKeown, McBride, McCann, Magowan, Coates, McMaster, Morrow (Doherty 86), Owens, Arthurs (Rainey 82), Donnelly. Subs: Rainey, Doherty, Caddell, Magee, Faulkner.
GLENAVON: Plummer, Magee, Dickson, Walsh, Grant, Molloy, McDonagh, Haughey, Davey, Johnston, Harpur. Subs: Murray, King, Gracey, Costello, Hamill.
Referee: David Malcolm (Bangor).