Hat-trick hero Doyle makes unforgettable debut for Crusaders Reserves
Brandon Doyle repaid Crusaders Reserves manager Gavin Arthur’s faith in him by marking his debut for the side with a memorable Intermediate Cup second round hat-trick over Bloomfield on Saturday.
The 16-year-old striker followed up the exploits of fellow reserve front-man Jamie Peoples, who grabbed a treble in the previous round against Malachians.
And on a freezing December afternoon that saw widespread postponements due to the seasonal weather, it was the perfect winter warmer for those that had come to watch, including Crusaders first team boss Stephen Baxter, who took in the first half at Seaview after their Danske Bank Premiership game at Carrick Rangers was called off.
For Arthur, it was satisfying to see the talent he spotted in a youth team player delivering on his promise .
The Crues Reserves boss said: “I’m over the moon with Brandon. I watched him playing for the Under-19s in the youth cup last week, and I thought I’d give him a go in the reserves. That was his first chance today, and he took it.
“These kids have a long way to go, and plenty of football to play if they want to make it to the first team one day. What I’m doing with this competition is resting some players and giving others their chance. ”
Crusaders were the dominant side for the majority of the game, but Bloomfield did not appear overawed by the occasion. Indeed, they could have gone ahead after 7 minutes, when Michael Getty slid a clever through-ball to Michael Bowers, but it was marginally overhit and keeper Geoff McKinty was able to keep it out.
At the other end, Doyle seemed to be similarly hasty, as he fired wide of the upright five minutes later. Seconds after this, the debutant found the net with a header from a weighted Cameron Stewart pass, but referee Matthew Goodricke rightly called it offside.
The lively Ross Holden made a great 26th minute run down the right flank before stabbing the ball into the box, only to see Craig Gardiner blast his close-range effort over.
Two minutes later, and the Wee Crues were in front. A Craig Gardiner corner swung in, and Doyle was able to edge ahead of his marker to nod the ball inside the right post.
Stephen O’Flynn may have considered himself unfortunate not to have doubled the advantage after his free-kick from the edge of the area rattled the crossbar, and he then thrashed well wide with the rebound.
Holden was having plenty of joy on the wide right, and another fine individual run from him was capped off with a powerful shot, which the diving Ryan Paine did well to save at his near post.
On 43 minutes, Gardiner whipped yet another dangerous corner into the box, but this time, there was no-one there to meet it.
Things got even better for the visitors with the last action of the first half. Lewis Irwin won the ball in midfield and broke down the right with plenty of free space ahead of him, before feeding a well-placed pass in to Bowers at the back post, which he tucked away with aplomb.
However, this was the last time Bloomfield had cause to celebrate, and they slipped behind once again, only 70 seconds into the second period - O’Flynn providing the long ball, and Doyle obliging with a simple tap-in.
Not long after this, the ball was played from deep to Irwin in clear space, but with the goal at his mercy, he miscued his lob from 20 yards out.
Paine made an excellent fingertip save from a 20-yard O’Flynn drive, but was powerless to prevent Doyle’s hat-trick in the 65th minute, as the teenager chested the ball down on the edge of the area, then swivelled and buried it into the bottom left hand corner.
Bloomfield weren’t without their chances - Jonathan Pollock burst through before dragging the ball wide, and Getty spurned another shot over the bar.
Doyle, meanwhile, continued to dazzle for Crusaders, and he sent a low ball towards the back post, but the outstretched Stewart couldn’t get his foot to it. Instead, it was left to substitute Dale McCreery to complete the scoring in the 88th minute with an unstoppable finish from the edge of the box.
At the end of the game, Bloomfield’s joint manager Jason Elliott was positive in his outlook despite the result.
“I think we acquitted ourselves well against a strong side,” he remarked. “We kept the ball well and created good chances… if you don’t take your chances against that quality of opposition, you are going to get punished.
“This is our first full season in charge, and the boys have been showing us performances like that all along. We aren’t far away from where we want to be.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Brandon Doyle (Crusaders Reserves). The hat-trick hero… and it could have been more.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The third of Doyle’s goals was his - and the game’s - finest.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ryan Paine’s stop from Holden just before half-time took excellent reflexes.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Bloomfield will be annoyed with themselves for allowing Crusaders Reserves to regain their advantage so soon after levelling matters.
Geoff McKinty: Goal conceded was the only blot on his copybook. 7
Nathan Spiers: Got forward well. 8
Richard Vauls: Always gave team-mates an option. 7
Adam Wilson: Did all he was asked to do. 7
Cameron Stewart: Showed good positional awareness. 8
Declan O’Neill: Not a bad day’s work. 7
Ross Holden: Proved to be a real handful. 9
Chris Morrow: Kept things ticking along nicely. 7
Stephen O’Flynn: Looked a threat in possession. 8
Brandon Doyle: Deserved his hat-trick - a fantastic debut. 9
Craig Gardiner: His corners were a rich source of opportunities. 8
Dale McCreery: On for O’Flynn, 69
Dylan O’Kane: On for O’Neill, 60
Michael Kerr: On for Morrow, 45
Ryan Paine: Made some good saves, despite letting in four. 6
Jonathan Pollock: A decent effort. 7
Chris Montgomery: Showed good composure under pressure. 7
Stuart Jeffers: Acquitted himself well. 7
Gary Patton: Sturdy and reliable. 7
Nathan McVeigh: Put in a shift. 6
Chris Cowden: Not lacking in effort. 7
Michael Bowers: Fleet-footed and industrious. 8
Chris Binks: Showed a good eye for a pass. 8
Lewis Irwin: Chased down every loose ball. 8
Michael Getty: Didn’t let his head drop. 7
Cameron Murray: On for Jeffers, 71
Darian Shaw: On for Pollock, 71
Alan Armstrong: On for McVeigh, 50