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Crusaders' Craig McClean not predicting a goal rush but he's got big targets

Crusaders 5 Ballinamallard United 1

By Graham Luney

Published 26/09/2016

Goal-den boy: Craig McClean netted a rare goal at Seaview on Saturday
Goal-den boy: Craig McClean netted a rare goal at Seaview on Saturday

It's perhaps a reflection of the pursuit of perfection at Seaview that Craig McClean was still angry at the goal Crusaders conceded against Ballinamallard United despite including his name on the club's scoresheet for the first time.

Now into his fifth season at Seaview, the left back's goal drought is over and it was a superb glancing header from Gavin Whyte's corner in the 52nd minute. It was McClean's first goal since netting for Dungannon Swifts against Ballymena United in April, 2012 and the 31-year-old deserved to savour the moment but he was still frustrated at missing his number one target... a clean sheet.

"My job is at the other end and I'm a bit disappointed with their goal as I was a bit square and got caught underneath the ball when it was played over the top," said McClean. "I'll look at that when I get home and I'm just glad to be able to rectify it slightly by getting a goal at the other end."

It would be an exaggeration to say the goal was worth the wait but it was still a header any top striker would be proud of.

"I wouldn't say I'm going to be prolific but it's just nice to get a goal, it's been a long time coming," he added.

"As long as we win that's the main thing. It's nice to score but the result is everything.

"It was a great corner by Gavin and I just got to the near post and got a glancing header in.

"I think big Steve Feeney had went off with a head injury so we had an extra man and there was no one at the back where I normally go. I told Deccy (Declan Caddell) to hold the edge to see if I can do something and luckily enough it hit the net."

As the rain hammered down on the artificial surface, Crusaders set about hammering the Mallards, and Whyte showed again why he is a player destined for bigger and better things than the Danske Bank Premiership.

His two goals were composed finishes and as well as supplying the corner for McClean's goal he started the move that led to Paul Heatley's 16th minute opener.

Jordan Owens was also on target and his goal celebration included a touching tribute to former Crusaders chairman Jim Semple who passed away this week. McClean added: "Stephen (Baxter) mentioned about Jim before the game on Tuesday against Larne and today again he was on the front of the programme. I'm sure he was up there watching and it was nice to get a couple of wins for him."

The visitors' brightest moment was their well worked equaliser from Ryan Mayse but the champions were in the mood.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Coates, McClean, Gault (Clarke, 77 mins), Caddell, Heatley (Carvill, 75 mins), Whyte (Cushley, 79 mins), Forsythe, Owens.Unused subs: Mitchell, Lowry.

Ballinamallard: McCusker, Taheny, McKenna, Armstrong, Lafferty (McElwaine, 81 mins), McCartney (Elliott, 79 mins), McMenamin (McGinty, 46 mins), Morris, Mayse, Feeney, McConnell. Unused subs: McGrath, McCabe.

Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)

Man of the match: Gavin Whyte

Match rating: 7/10.

Belfast Telegraph

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