Belfast Telegraph

Late penalty miss was justice, argues Hegarty

Crusaders 3 Glenavon 2

All good: Chris Hegarty feels Crusaders deserved the win
All good: Chris Hegarty feels Crusaders deserved the win

By Graham Luney

Crusaders defender Chris Hegarty admitted his side weren't at their scintillating best against Glenavon but he felt justice was done when Sean O'Neill dealt with Josh Daniels' penalty right at the death to snatch a 3-2 home victory.

It could be a massive three points for the Crues in the title race and had that penalty been converted it would have felt like a defeat.

Rhys Marshall struck after only 40 seconds and it was clear from that moment this was going to be a dramatic and thrilling contest.

Paul Heatley's sublime volley on 13 minutes and Philip Lowry's fortuitous headed goal after the break turned the tide but then it became a tale of three penalties.

Referee Jamie Robinson penalised Howard Beverland after he wrestled with Andrew Mitchell and the striker hammered in the spot-kick.

David Cushley netted from the spot after Heatley went down when attempting to skip past Aaron Harmon but deep into added time, Hegarty was penalised even though he appeared to get a touch on the ball as Conor McCloskey hit the ground.

It was a decision which infuriated the Crues but O'Neill came to the rescue after a tame effort from Daniels.

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"In my personal opinion the penalty was bought but that's what happens," argued former Dungannon Swifts ace Hegarty.

"It's an important three points and we are happy with that.

"Maybe it was a bit of justice in the end with Sean saving the penalty and I'm buzzing for him.

"I've watched highlights of Glenavon and Crusaders and there are usually plenty of goals in them. Glenavon took points off the Crues last season so we have to take the positives from the win. Perhaps it's a bit of a wake-up call but it's three points and we move on.

"We didn't start on the front foot but we dug in and got back into the game. You'd rather they scored in the first 40 seconds than last 40 seconds.

"We had an uphill challenge but credit to the boys and we had plenty of chances. We are creating opportunities and it's always nice to win when you haven't been at your best."

Lurgan Blues boss Gary Hamilton said: "We played really well. Our form since the game in Scotland has been good and I'm shattered for the boys. Everyone knows the referee cost us the game. No one on the pitch cost us. I can't criticise Aaron Harmon for the penalty incident as it wasn't a penalty kick but those moments changed the game.

"Every single player, including the substitutes, gave everything they have and it was a good performance from a solid back four to greats shifts all round and Rhys Marshall was excellent."

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Hegarty, Beverland, Lowry, McGonigle (Caddell, 87 mins), Hale (McElroy, 73 mins), Forsythe, Ruddy, Heatley, Clarke (Cushley, 73 mins). Unused subs: Doherty, Ward, Owens, Thompson.

Glenavon: Tuffey, Burns, Doyle, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell, Hall (Beggs, 84 mins), Harmon, O'Mahony (McCloskey, 59 mins), Singleton (Larmour, 62 mins), Garrett.Unused subs: Taylor, Murray, Jenkins, Neill.

Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown)

Man of the Match: Philip Lowry

Match Rating: 8/10.

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