Gavin Whyte toasts a century of Crusaders games with stunner in Glentoran win
Glentoran 0 Crusaders 3
Jet-heeled Gavin Whyte celebrated his 100th appearance in a Crusaders shirt by bagging a beauty in the demolition of Glentoran at a soggy Oval.
The 20-year-old made a mockery of the slippery, greasy surface to produce an exhibition of football that had Gary Haveron's team on the ropes from practically the first blast of Evan Boyce's whistle.
Declan Caddell headed the Danske Premiership champions into the lead on 15 minutes, bulleting home a delicious cross from Jordan Forsythe.
Within 60 seconds, Whyte wheeled away to celebrate after he and Paul Heatley had scythed through the home defence like a hot knife through butter.
When veteran striker Nacho Novo was dismissed by Ballygowan official Boyce for an alleged headbutt on Caddell just before the break, there was simply no way back for the Glens.
Surprisingly, the visitors had to wait until 18 minutes from time to finish the job when Heatley gobbled up a Craig McClean punt before beating Elliott Morris at his near post.
But it was a special performance from Whyte on a day he clocked up a century of games in a red and black shirt.
"It was a great win, particularly as the conditions were so tricky," he said. "The early goals really killed off Glentoran. Even before we scored, I thought we bossed the game.
"This was really the start of a tough run of fixtures for us. We've now got Cliftonville at home before we go to Glenavon.
Whyte hailed the contribution of Heately, who played an instrumental part in his goal.
"I just remember playing a quick one-two with Paul," he added. "That's what Heats (Heatley) is all about, he is a quality player. I'm really feeling good again and I'm chipping in with a few goals which is great.
"It doesn't matter who scores the goals as long as the team wins. We are solid all over the park - there are no weaknesses in this team."
With Colin Coates out injured and Michael Gault banned, Crues boss Stephen Baxter handed a debut to new signing from Dundalk, Alan Keane.
"He's a good player," purred Baxter. "You can see the quality. He likes to pass the ball and move into space. That's what we saw in him three or four years ago.
"We need to get him up speed in terms of match fitness. Alan hasn't played for three or four weeks. But he stepped in and he really looked like a Rolls Royce-type of footballer. We have one or two injuries, so we are delighted he is with us."
Angry Glens chief Gary Haveron insisted Novo was hard done by when he received a red card following an off the ball clash with Caddell.
"It was a joke," roared Haveron. "I've watched a video and Caddell hits Nacho with an elbow off the ball, it's as clear as day. It's a sending off the other way - the referee is only five yards away.
"Crusaders should have been down to 10 men. But play went on (after the incident) for 10 or 15 seconds because the referee didn't deal with it. When he eventually stopped play, Caddell is towering over Nacho. It looks as though the two have come together. I honestly don't know who makes the contact.
"We'll certainly appeal the dismissal and we'll be submitting the video evidence. It's perhaps not all that conclusive, but what is conclusive is Caddell's initial foul on our player."
GLENTORAN: Morris, Kane (Smith, 85 mins), Magee, Caldwell (Gordon, 71 mins), Allen, Novo, Lavery (O'Flynn, 71 mins), Harmon, Addis, Redman, Ferrin. Unused subs: Nelson, McAuley.
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland (Lowry, 89 mins), Carvill, Caddell, Forsythe, McClean , Owens, Keane, Heatley (Cushley, 76 mins), Whyte (Clarke, 86 mins). Unused subs: Dougherty, Suarez.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)