Linfield boss David Jeffrey was angry about some of referee Colin Burns’ decisions as the Irish Cup holders were sent tumbling out of the competition on a freezing cold night at Seaview.
Brian McCaul’s first-half thunderbolt got the evening off to a perfect start for the Blues, who felt they should have had the opportunity to add to their score when Michael Carvill was felled by Crusaders debutante goalkeeper Craig Hyland.
Referee Burns, however, interpreted it as a dive by Carvill and flashed a yellow card in the speedy wide-man’s direction before pointing to the spot at the other end when Timmy Adamson took a tumble under the challenge of Albert Watson.
Gary McCutcheon stepped up to restore parity from the spot before Adamson’s second-half snapshot sent the Crues — beaten by Linfield in each of the last two Irish Cup finals — through to a sixth round date at home to Glenavon.
Jeffrey was “bitterly disappointed” to suffer defeat but insisted his side’s demise had been due in no small part to the performance of the man in the middle.
“You talk about officials and you talk about big decisions and I felt some of those decisions cost us,” he said.
“I don’t think it was a foul at all for theirs, let alone worthy of a yellow card, whereas I felt we should have had a penalty when Michael Carvill was brought down, yet he gets a booking for diving.
“You know your own players and you can judge by their reactions and I have to say I felt the referee got that one very badly wrong.”
The Blues boss — who has guided his side to six doubles in the last seven seasons but whose men trail
current Premiership leaders Cliftonville by a yawning 16 points — was also aggrieved with the non-appearance of an offside flag in the build-up to the Crues’ winning goal.
Jordan Owens outmuscled William Murphy before sending in a cross which Paul Heatley miskicked into Adamson’s path and the former Linfield frontman made no mistake with a first-time finish.
“How far offside was the guy?” quizzed Jeffrey. It’s decisions like that which change games and cost results, making it a bitterly, bitterly disappointing pill to swallow.
“If you’re played off the park and beaten then you can accept it but I didn’t think there was much between the sides and it’s hard not to look back on those decisions.”
Opposite number Stephen Baxter, fresh from jigging a dance of delight in front of the home faithful after the final whistle, said: “I think we thoroughly deserved it.
“We were well organised, well disciplined and won a lot of battles right across the pitch.
“It wasn’t a game of too many chances, but we took enough to get the win.
“I thought we were class in the second-half and ran out very worthy winners.”
On those big penalty calls, Baxter added: “There was a melee of players in my way and I didn’t have a clear view, but the referee had and he’s made the calls he feels were right.”