Jordan Forsythe: Crues are finding top gear
Crusaders 3-0 Glentoran
It's been a season of stunning goals in the Danske Bank Premiership and Jordan Forsythe served up his own special contribution at Seaview on Saturday to help fire Crusaders five points clear at the top.
Alan Kernaghan will not remember his managerial debut with Glentoran with any great affection as the dismissals of Marcus Kane and Niall Henderson allowed Crusaders to extend their unbeaten league run to 15 matches.
Paul Heatley and Stephen O'Flynn also got on the scoresheet but Forsythe's exquisite volley from Craig McClean's cross was an early Christmas cracker on the Shore Road.
"I just saw the cross coming in and had the idea in my head to hit it first time," said the former Bangor ace.
"I was delighted because I had felt I hadn't contributed as much as I should have in terms of goals this season.
"I've only got two this season but I'm doing more defensive work than before.
"It was one of the best goals I have scored but what really mattered was the three points.
"We knew it would be a hard game after the Linfield match and of course with a new manager Glentoran would be fired up but we worked on short, sharp passing during the week and it was a good performance from us."
Referee Mervyn Smyth was perhaps too keen to produce a yellow card - there were nine bookings in total - but the two dismissals were fair.
Glentoran can take some encouragement from their response after the break when their 10 men sprung to life and keeper Sean O'Neill was forced to make stunning saves from Curtis Allen, Barry Holland and Stephen McAlorum but the Crues scored three fantastic goals and Billy Joe Burns also struck the woodwork.
While Linfield struggle to find momentum across town, the Crues look in good shape to retain the title for the first time in the club's history.
Forsythe added: "We just want to keep our noses ahead of everyone else and deal with each challenge when it comes.
"We would rather have teams chase us and our attitude is to focus on the next game.
"It's about concentrating on our own performance and getting the three points.
"The squad we have is amazing and it's a real fight it get into the team, it keeps us challenging as individuals and with it being a long season we just have to keep winning.
"I've grown up watching the Irish League and it's fantastic to be able to play at this level, in this great team.
"The boys have been brilliant and everything is looking rosy."
Jubilant Crues boss Stephen Baxter added: "I would like to see the replay of Curtis Allen's chance as I felt he was offside but if I'm wrong then I'll accept it.
"But we were camped in the Glentoran half for long periods and kept knocking on the door.
"They came at us hard in the first half and picked up a lot of bookings and some cynical fouls cost them.
"Jordan (Forsythe) has that in his locker, we watch him in training and he has that skill factor.
"He's got up to speed after coming up from the Championship and we are seeeing him develop. In the last two weeks I think he has been really strong for us."
The Glens were architects of their own downfall and Kernaghan said: "I'm not sure why we didn't perform in the first half, maybe the players were a bit overexcited to do well but I was pleased at how we carved them open on a few occasions.
"I said to the players at half-time we needed to be brave and go for it.
"Getting a draw with 10 men was a big ask but losing another player made it very difficult for us.
"I thought we could have snatched a point but the second dismissal made it very tough.
"I was pleased with the quality on show in the second half but the players will have to make better decisions when they're on yellow cards."
Kernaghan's baptism of fire as Glens boss continues on Wednesday night when his side travel to Cliftonville in a last eight League Cup clash.
Another daunting task awaits the former Republic of Ireland defender.
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates, McClean, Forsythe, Snoddy, (O'Carroll, 86 mins), Carvill (Caddell, 77 mins), Owens (O'Flynn, 88 mins), Heatley, Clarke. Unused subs: McKibbin, Stewart.
Glentoran: Morris, Gordon, Caldwell (Cafolla, 83 mins), Holland, Kane, Addis, McAlorum, Henderson, Allen, O'Hanlon (McCullough, 46 mins), Smith (McCaffrey, 69 mins). Unused subs: Hogg, Hamill.
Man of the match: Sean O'Neill
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)