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'Open to interpretation': Stephen Baxter has his say on red card drama as Crusaders have three sent off in Glentoran clash

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Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter speaks to fourth official Raymond Crangle.

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter speaks to fourth official Raymond Crangle.

Raised tempers: Crues skipper Jordan Owens and manager Stephen Baxter remonstrate with referee Andrew Davey after the game

Raised tempers: Crues skipper Jordan Owens and manager Stephen Baxter remonstrate with referee Andrew Davey after the game

Robbie McDaid

Robbie McDaid

Famous face: Fifa president Gianni Infantino, in Glens colours, was part of the Irish Cup quarter-final day crowd at The Oval

Famous face: Fifa president Gianni Infantino, in Glens colours, was part of the Irish Cup quarter-final day crowd at The Oval

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter speaks to fourth official Raymond Crangle.

Robbie McDaid held his nerve to shoot Glentoran into the semi-finals of the Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup on Saturday, but it was merely a sideshow after what took place on the final whistle.

A typical good old-fashioned cup showdown descended into mayhem and madness with a flurry of red cards - three in total as Crusaders pair Jordan Forsythe and Gerard Doherty took the walk of shame along with manager Stephen Baxter.

The game, played in horrible windy conditions, appeared to be heading to extra-time when it exploded for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier, Jamie McGonigle shot the Crues into a first half lead - an advantage they held until 67 minutes when skipper Marcus Kane drilled a low shot past Doherty to level matters.

But things turned sour three minutes from time when referee Andrew Davey took advice from his fourth official, Raymond Crangle, to award Glentoran a penalty kick after Jarlath O'Rourke stuck out a hand to deflect a cross from McDaid.

The striker was forced to wait until the Crues' protests subsided before he smashed the ball under the body of the diving Doherty.

Sadly, things deteriorated after that.

Forsythe lost his cool and pushed a ball boy when attempting to take a quick throw-in, earning himself a straight red card in the process.

Then, amid Glentoran celebrations on the final whistle, Doherty had a bottle fired in his direction from the Sydenham end of the ground and was sent off for returning it in the direction of home fans, while Baxter was dismissed for comments made to the under-fire Davey.

Both clubs could pay a hefty price when the IFA disciplinary committee sit down to assess the damage. And, alarmingly, it all took place on the day Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in attendance!

The Glens will face Cliftonville in the semi-finals later this month, while Baxter's boys face the prospect of ending the campaign without a trophy - and the possibility of missing out on European football.

They trail Danske Bank Premiership leaders Linfield by a whopping 11 points with only nine games remaining.

"There is no doubt the penalty decision was the big talking point," moaned Baxter, when he emerged from the sanctuary of the dressing room.

"I couldn't tell whether it was a penalty or not from the naked eye.

"We are watching it from the dugout at the halfway line. I'm standing beside the fourth official and he gives the penalty. The referee and his assistant were right beside it and neither of them gave it. You have to be ultra-sure in decision making like that.

"It was the fourth official who made the decision in the 87th minute, there was no time to recover from that. They made the decision and we are out of the cup - that's it.

"People have got to take responsibility in football. I'm talking about players, management and referees. I can't legislate how some people conduct themselves but, unfortunately, I have to suffer the consequences.

"I went on to the pitch to shake the referee's hand - and that's hand on heart. What I witnessed from the referee is open to interpretation and I'm saying no more."

Match winner McDaid admitted he had to blank out the mayhem around him and focus on putting the ball in the net.

"I think I was due a bit of luck," he laughed.

"I didn't hit it all that well. Sometimes the ones you scuff end up in the net.

"After Nav (Navid Nasseri) missed one last week, I decided to take on the responsibility. It was an important goal at a crucial time. We now face another massive test against Cliftonville in the next round.

"We've had some good ding-dong battles with them over the last few years, particularly in the Europa League play-offs. They are a good side, but we'll be well prepared for it.

"When it gets to the last four, it doesn't really matter who you play.

"I think the way the league has shaped up this season, with five or six teams up there challenging at one stage, proves any team can beat the other on any given day.

"The gaffer (Mick McDermott) has banged on to us all season, you are only as good as your last game. We can now park the cup game and turn our attentions back to the league games."

GLENTORAN: Morris, Garrett, Kane, Peers, Gallagher, McDaid, McClean, Nasseri, Crowe (Cowan, 90 mins), O'Neill (Van Overbeek, 61 mins), Donnelly. Unused subs: Frazer, Pepper, Antolovic, O'Connor, Gordon.

CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns, McGonigle, Cushley, Forsythe, O'Rourke, Owens, Brown, Thompson (Lowry, 73 mins), Heatley, Dummigan (McElroy, 89 mins). Unused subs: O'Neill, Hegarty, Hale, Caddell, McGinley.

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)

Man of the match: Patrick McClean

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