Big Mac off mark as Glens triumph
Glentoran manager Alan McDonald won the first trophy of his managerial career last night as David Scullion and Ryan Berry fired the Glens to Co Antrim shield glory at Windsor Park.
It was hardly a game that befitted a final, with neither side doing much to warm the cockles of a decent crowd, but fit-again Gary Hamilton came up with the goods to have a hand in both goals which killed of a spirited Crusaders team who scored through Chris Morrow but, two minutes into stoppage time, it was too late to matter.
Hamilton and Sean Ward both made unexpected returns to the Glentoran line up having suffered from ankle injuries recently.
Indeed it was feared that Hamilton, so important to the Glens' cause, would be out of action until December.
As it was, both turned out, though it took a while for Hamilton to re-discover his touch.
In fact you would think that both men had been missing for a while because there was a distinct lack in continuity in the play, from both teams.
There was no flow to the game, niggly free-kicks were a feature and as for goalmouth action, frankly, there wasn't any.
Oval old-boy Darren Lockhart tried his best to inject a little excitement into the affair on 20 minutes when he drove forward and attempted to jig his way through the Glentoran defence but, just as he was about to let fly, Ward came in to block with a timely tackle.
From the subsequent corner, swung in by Eamon Doherty, Elliot Morris, back in the Glens' goal, had to tip the ball over from under his crossbar.
That was really as good as it got for either team in the first half. The Glens had a few long-range efforts that failed to trouble Aaron Hogg, and the Crues, while not offering too much themselves, were more than comfortable.
The second half looked as if it would have a little more urgency as Glentoran flew out of the blocks from the restart, but it proved to be a false dawn as nothing came from the attack and it was back to the dirge that had been served up in the first 45 minutes.
Barry Spence tried his luck from distance for the Crues but his shot went well over, then Ward again had to be on his guard on the hour mark as David Rainey broke through, but the defender made another well-timed blocking tackle.
It was always going to take a moment of magic to spring this game into action and, unsurprisingly, it came via the silky skills of Hamilton after 64 minutes.
The Northern Ireland international, coming wide onto the left flank, twisted and turned substitute Ryan Tumilty into submission before sending a floated cross to the back post. Halliday then headed the ball down to Scullion who, with his back to goal, turned well and hooked his shot past Hogg to, finally, make the breakthrough.
That was a hammer blow to the Hatchet men and the final nail in their Co Antrim Shield coffin arrived four minutes later when Berry doubled the Glens' advantage.
Hamilton again had a hand in proceedings as his low free-kick from the left was sliced clear but only into the path of young midfielder Berry who buried his shot from 20 yards through a crowd of players for only his second career goal.
Crusaders made a quick attempt at getting back into the game when, following a fortuitous deflection off referee David Best, Lockhart went through but Morris saved well and Rainey's follow-up went high and wide.
Both sides were lucky to end the game with a full quota of players following a spat between Hamilton and Doherty six minutes from time. Doherty's tackle on the Glens forward was terrible but Hamilton also reacted and raised his arms.
Both players could have gone, but Best settled for two yellow cards.
Crusaders pulled one back when Stephen McBride's deep cross was headed past Morris by Morrow.
But it was too little too late and it was Glentoran skipper Paul Leeman who picked up the first prize of the Irish League season in front of delirious Glenmen in the North Stand.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Nixon, Leeman, S Ward, Hill, Hamill, Fordyce, Berry, Scullion, Hamilton, Halliday. Subs: Dougherty, Fitzgerald, M Ward, McMenamin, McGovern.
CRUSADERS: Hogg, Magowan, McBride, Doherty, Spence, Coates, Coulter, Lockhart, Reilly, Rainey, Morrow. Subs: McAlister, Caddel, Emerson, Tumilty, Kerr.
Referee: David Best (Carnmoney)