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Crusaders' honest chat paved path to redemption after Glenavon low, says Stephen Baxter

Crusaders 5 Portadown 0


Easy street: Crusaders Philip Lowry celebrates his first goal with Paul Heatley

Easy street: Crusaders Philip Lowry celebrates his first goal with Paul Heatley


Paul Heatley on target

Paul Heatley on target



Easy street: Crusaders Philip Lowry celebrates his first goal with Paul Heatley

How do you get up from an all-time low? Boy band The Wanted couldn't find the answer in their No.1 hit a decade ago. It seems, however, that Crusaders have.

Just two weeks after a tame surrender against Glenavon left manager Stephen Baxter wondering where the real Crusaders had gone, they have shown up again, beating Glentoran 2-0 in their next game before a hugely impressive 5-0 victory over Portadown on Saturday.

Philip Lowry scored the opening goal in that 3-1 defeat at Mourneview Park. He netted twice against the Ports in the second half to complete an emphatic victory after first-half goals from Jordan Owens, Paul Heatley and Adam Lecky.

Lowry's name on the scoresheet is where the similarities end. From a game where no-one in a red and black shirt could say they played anywhere near their potential to one just 14 days later when it was hard to separate the many contenders for man of the match.

The response has been strong and it seems that answer was right under their noses the entire time.

"The Glenavon defeat was one of the lowest points I've had at the club. Even though we are sitting third it was just a rank bad performance," said Lowry.

"There was an element of giving up from a lot of players that day. We had a frank conversation among the players and just realised that it wasn't acceptable for a club like Crusaders to play like that.

"In the last two games we've gone back to doing what we're good at and when we keep things simple and do what we're good at we're a decent team and it has proved against Glentoran and Portadown when we play the way we can and to our strengths then that's when we are at our best."

The Crues really were at their best. Then there was the contrast between a battle-hardened, street-wise and vastly experienced Premiership outfit who have been in and around the top of the table for the best part of a decade against a newly-promoted team whose top-flight appearances don't make three figures between them.

In terms of the goals it wasn't just about the quantity, they came with quality as well in both the delivery from wide areas to set them up and the finishing.

In between Jordan Forsythe and Ross Clarke sending in teasing crosses for Owens and Lecky to score the first and third goals, Heatley showed his fantastic finishing technique when he chipped a half volley from the left side of the penalty area over the head of Portadown goalkeeper Ben Pierce into the net.

The passing phase between Lecky, Jamie McGonigle and Heatley that led to the cross for Lowry's first goal was classy in the extreme and had Lecky's finish matched the superb trickery that got him past the Ports defence for the fifth it would have more than merited the occasion, but Lowry was on hand to show him how it's done.

Crusaders: Doherty, Forsythe, Hegarty, Wilson, O'Rourke, Caddell (Kennedy 62 mins), Thompson, Lowry, Clarke (McGonigle 46 mins), Owens (Lecky 37 mins) Heatley. Unused subs: Shields, Burns, Cushley, Brown.

Portadown: Pierce, Finnegan, McCallum, Healy, Hall, Teggart, Wilson, McKeown (Tipton 53 mins), Lavery, Bonis (Croskery 75 mins), Salley (Conaty 54). Unused subs: Pengelly, Crane, Murray, Croskery, Kerr.

Referee: Stephen Gregg (Ballyclare).

Man of the Match: Jordan Forsythe

Match Rating: 8/10

Belfast Telegraph