Belfast Telegraph

Jamie McGonigle almost halfway to ambitious goal target in first season at Crusaders

Dungannon Swifts 1 Crusaders 6

Goal hungry: Jamie McGonigle is congratulated after scoring in Crusaders’ rout at Dungannon
Goal hungry: Jamie McGonigle is congratulated after scoring in Crusaders’ rout at Dungannon
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Crusaders striker Jamie McGonigle has set a 30-goal target this season - with his manager saying there is more to come from him.

The 23-year-old's flying start to his Crues career continued with this man-of-the-match display at Dungannon.

He scored twice and helped set up three more as the relegation-threatened Swifts were hammered again.

It took Crusaders top of the table, ahead of Coleraine and Cliftonville on goal difference.

McGonigle has been pleased with his start, and said: "I think it's 14 goals now.

"I set myself a target - a high one - of 30 goals at the start of the season so hopefully I can reach that.

"I'm nearly halfway there, hopefully a few more goals between now and the end of the year will take me a bit closer to that."

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McGonigle was instrumental as the Crues took charge in the second half on Saturday.

They had struggled in the early stages, and fell behind to Dougie Wilson's eye-catching strike after 16 minutes.

Paul Heatley quickly levelled with a deflected shot but with almost an hour played the game was still locked at 1-1.

Ross Clarke's low drive, which made it 2-1 in the 58th minute, changed everything, though.

It was the first of five Crusaders goals in a devastating 19-minute spell, McGonigle, who had been involved in the build-up to their first two, set up Philip Lowry for the third and after Howard Beverland made it four, McGonigle completed the rout.

It was another tough afternoon for the Swifts, who have lost nine in a row, but McGonigle felt the timing of the Crues' equaliser, just two minutes after going behind, was crucial.

He added: "That settled us again. We could continue being patient, we didn't have to rush, and we could just do our thing.

"Once we went ahead in the second half, the game really opened up."

The only negatives for Crusaders were injuries to two key players.

Rory Hale suffered a knee problem early on, while Jordan Owens went off with a bad gash on his achilles tendon that needed stitches.

That aside, boss Stephen Baxter was highly satisfied with a "quite stunning" second half, and particularly impressed with how McGonigle came into the game.

"His second half performance was really, really good," Baxter said.

"His first half performance wasn't what I was looking for, but when he moves the way he does, and looks lively, he always looks a goal threat."

For Dungannon, though, this was another low in a troubled season.

Hit for six at Glentoran a week earlier, they enter a critical month, which brings key clashes against Warrenpoint and Institute.

Unless things change, their alarming slide down the table could yet lead them out of the division as boss Kris Lindsay admitted.

"We have to find something because if we keep playing the way we are, we will be relegated," he said.

DUNGANNON: Johnston (Byrne, 64 mins), Coyle, Byers, King, Redman, Wilson, Lowe, Gallagher (Waide, 77 mins), Patton, Campbell (Brennan, 82 mins), Carvill.

Unused subs: McGinty, Noble.

CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns (Hegarty, 78 mins), Beverland, Coates, O'Rourke, Clarke, Lowry, Heatley, Hale (Caddell, 22 mins), McGonigle, Owens (Cushley, 46 mins).

Unused subs: Shields, Thompson, McGinley, McElroy.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)

Man of the match: Jamie McGonigle

Match rating: 7/10

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