Glenavon 2 Crusaders 3
Published 08/01/2013 | 06:59
It says much for a team’s performance — even in defeat for a fourth match in a row — when the opposing boss sings your praises.
So take a bow Stephen Baxter manager of title chasing Crusaders.
He watched his lads close the gap on league leaders Cliftonville to just three points but spent much of the time after the final whistle eulogising about Glenavon.
The 3-2 score line only gives a hint of just how close this game was.
For if chances counted the final outcome could have red 6-6, more in keeping with a result from Ravenhill.
Make no mistake Baxter was supremely proud of his own men yet he conceded: “It was heart-stopping stuff.
“We had to work very hard to earn what is three fantastic points.” How right he was because Crues had twice to come from behind to clinch it.
Mark Haughey — currently on trial with League One side Bournemouth — rocked the title chasers with a header back across goal from player-boss Gary Hamilton’s free-kick.
And when deadly Gary McCutcheon levelled, Ciaran Martyn restored gutsy Glenavon’s lead.
Paul Heatley made sure the sides were all square at the break leaving the wind and rain lashed showdown on a knife edge.
Heatley fired against the crossbar and Owens poked wide of a gaping goal as Crues strove to put the game to bed. Then Matthew Snoddy scooped another effort against Andy Coleman’s bar.
Late sub David Rainey also saw his shot come back off the woodwork but Declan Caddell’s 65th minute header sealed it.
However it was by no means all one-way and Glenavon will also look back on what might have been.
Hamilton, Martyn and debut boy Mark Farren, signed from Derry City, also had reason to curse their luck.
They found it impossible to find a way past Sean O’Neill.
Little wonder Baxter admitted: “This was a massive win for us.
“Glenavon have much improved since we were last here. They have brought in quality players who would grace any Irish League team and beyond.
“It was a good game of football.
“Both teams went for it and our keeper made some smart saves so we’re delighted to come out on the right side.”
Rival boss Hamilton hailed his team’s performance and insisted: “More of the same and we’ll win more matches than we’ll lose.
“I keep saying that on our day we can compete with the best and this performance proves it.
“I cannot be critical but I am disappointed we didn’t get at least a point from the game.
And a special word of praise too for referee David Malcolm.
He demonstrated how to handle a game and went home without producing a single yellow.