Matthew Snoddy strikes as Crusaders hit title form
Glenavon 1-2 Crusaders
Crusaders midfielder Matthew Snoddy has warned his team are now back in title mode.
The 21-year-old was instrumental in the hard-fought Danske Bank Premiership victory over Glenavon at Mourneview Park on Saturday.
Snoody, whose future looked anything but secure when he was shipped out to Coleraine on loan last season, shot the Belfast boys into an early second half lead before James Singleton celebrated his 20th birthday by plundering an equaliser.
New boy Michael Carvill, who had earlier replaced a strangely subdued Gavin Whyte, ensured the Crues left with maximum points when his low drive was rammed into his own net by the unfortunate Kyle Neill with only 14 minutes remaining on the clock.
"It's nice to get on the score sheet, but the win was more important," said Snoddy.
"We are gradually clicking into gear after our opening day defeat by Portadown.
"I've been here five years and I don't think we've ever got off to a flying start to any league campaign.
"Everything is starting to come together, there is a great belief in the team.
"We know we are good enough to win the league. It's a matter of now finding that consistency. But that's two wins on the bounce and it's important we keep that going next week against Dungannon.
"Yes, there is pressure on us to retain the title. Personally, I don't feel it.
"Obviously, teams are working harder, simply because we are the league champions.
"It gives them an extra incentive to beat us, but it's something we must learn to deal with. We wanted a game like this to put down a marker. Many teams will lose points at Mourneview this season."
Snoddy admits he also has a personal challenge of staying in the team.
"With such a good squad of players, it's important to keep producing consistent performances," he added.
"Six out of 10 isn't good enough. You've got to be looking for seven or eight on a weekly basis.
"That's all I can do, keep working hard and try not to give the manager an opportunity to leave me out."
Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton insists his team were victims of some poor refereeing decisions with Belfast whistler Raymond Crangle immediately stroked off his Christmas card list.
"We were as good if not better than Crusaders," roared Hamilton. "To come away from the game defeated, through no fault of our own, is unbelievable. But it's happening time and time again.
"Raymond is one of our better referees, but how Colin Coates, who in my opinion is one of the top defenders in the league and has been for a long time, got away with persistent fouling all afternoon is beyond me.
"When you don't get booked for tackles, it makes a defender's job easy. I've got the stats. He fouled on nine occasions and he never received a yellow card.
"Crusaders went through 90 minutes of football and had one man booked (Jordan Owens) - and that was for time wasting. The decisions that go against the smaller clubs in big games are frightening.
"The important decisions always seem to sway in favour of the bigger clubs, regardless whether it's Crusaders, Cliftonville or Linfield.
"Kris Lindsay had to have four or five stitches in an eye wound, the victim of an elbow in the face. Nothing is done about.
"One of our players (Dave Elebert) then jumps leading with an arm - he's booked.
"You can't have different rules for different teams."
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Neill (Patton, 84 mins), Lindsay, Kilmartin (Hamilton, 87 mins), Marshall, Cooper, Bradley, Hall, Braniff, Elebert (McGrory, 59 mins), Singleton. Unused subs: O'Brien, Sykes.
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, Forsythe, McClean, Owens, Snoddy, Heatley, Whyte (Carvill, 64 mins), Mitchell. Unused subs: Stewart, Molloy, McKibben, Vauls.
Man of the match: Josh Robinson
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)