Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran aren't in the title race but we're on the right road, says Robbie McDaid

Glentoran 1 Crusaders 1

Take off: Robbie McDaid goes airborne to get the better of Crues goalkeeper Gerard Doherty
Take off: Robbie McDaid goes airborne to get the better of Crues goalkeeper Gerard Doherty

By Alex Mills

Robbie McDaid admits he prefers Glentoran to operate under the radar and not be classed as title candidates.

The 23-year-old gobbled up his 12th goal of the season in Saturday's bruising clash with Crusaders to help keep the east Belfast team firmly in the mix approaching the hectic festive schedule.

Mick McDermott's boys hadn't beaten their cross-town rivals in League combat since April 2014 and, when Jamie McGonigle shot the Crues into the lead just after the break, it appeared it would be business as usual.

Although the gutsy Glens produced a stirring second-half showing, they had to rely on McDaid's cool finish 10 minutes from time to salvage the situation. It meant the winless hoodoo continued, but at least they added another point to their Danske Bank Premiership tally.

The game, however, was marred by the last minute dismissal of Glens striker Cameron Stewart, who was shown a straight red card by referee Tim Marshall for an alleged elbowing incident involving Crues defender Howard Beverland.

"I wouldn't say we are in the title race at the minute," conceded McDaid.

"Yes, we have done extremely well. We talked at the start of the campaign and our aim was to be more competitive - I think we definitely are.

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"You can see from our squad that the boys that come on (from the bench) can make a difference. That's something we haven't had for the past few seasons.

"To talk about titles, it's very early days. The gaffer maintains it's a process, what we are doing is part of a long-term plan, not a short-term fix.

"We are on our way, of course, but we'll not be getting carried away with a couple of decent results.

"And we do take satisfaction of going toe-to-toe with Crusaders - a team that have won titles over the last few years. They are pretty similar to Linfield, they are always there or thereabouts when it comes to April-May time.

"Yes, we were happy (with the result), but it could have been a lot better if we had taken all three points. If you look at the top teams in the league, they do rescue points from nowhere in that last 10 minutes, so I thought that was important for us.

"We were pushing for a goal and I thought it was only a matter of time before the ball went into the net. Thankfully I was able to put it away.

"It's something like six seasons since Glentoran has beaten Crusaders, so we are disappointed from that aspect but, in terms of how the game panned out, we probably would have taken a point, being 1-0 down with 10 minutes left."

McDaid admits the Glens are now braced for what will be a 'massive challenge' over the next three weeks, starting at Carrick Rangers on Saturday.

"It's a big ask, but these are the games we want to be involved in," he added. "We've picked up five points from three really difficult games (Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville).

"We are under no illusions, next week will be just as tough. There are no easy games in the league, but with every match coming thick and fast over the month of December, you could find yourself very much out of the top three or four, or even out of the title race.

"There is a possibility of dropping out of the pack. Mick talked about it at the beginning of the month of how important it is to keep as close as possible to the top three or four."

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter admitted he was happy with the point against a team he reckons will certainly be in the title mix come the end of the season.

"Can they win it? One hundred percent they can win it," said Baxter. "But there are four or five other team with the capability of winning it as well.

"Glentoran are on a great run. They are only a couple of points of it (the top of the table).

"To me, there is not a lot of difference between any of the top six teams."

GLENTORAN: Antolovic, Kane, Peers, Gallagher (Van Overbeek, 75 mins), McDaid, Stewart, McClean, Pepper, Crowe, O'Neill (Nasseri, 61 mins), Plum. Unused subs: Morris, Birney, Frazer, Herron, Murray.

CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns, Beverland, Coates (Hegarty, 46 mins), Lowry, McGonigle (Heatley, 85 mins), Caddell, Forsythe, O'Rourke, Owens (Cushley, 85 mins), Clarke. Unused subs: O'Neill, Ruddy, Thompson, McElroy.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)

Man of the match: Robbie McDaid

Match rating: 7/10

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