Danske Bank Premiership
Mick McDermott’s Glentoran last night cranked up their challenge at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with this impressive win at Seaview.
It’s the second time in four days the Glens have profited from a journey across town to north Belfast as they pocketed three vital points just up the road at Cliftonville on Monday night in front of a live television audience.
The Glens won for the first time in a decade on their last visit to the Shore Road venue – now they can’t stop, with the success nudging them joint top of the table alongside Big Two rivals Linfield, who have a superior goal difference.
It all started so well for Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders, who led at half-time through a Josh Robinson goal, but the visitors came out with all guns blazing after the restart and struck in deadly fashion through Conor McMenamin and Robbie McDaid.
Now they have the Gibson Cup firmly in their sights for the first time since 2009.
Crusaders boss Baxter, who was dismissed with five minutes remaining for speaking out of turn, made two changes to the team that won at Warrenpoint Town last time out. New signing Jude Winchester was handed a debut, while Daniel Larmour replaced Chris Hegarty in the centre of defence. Robbie Weir dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
But it turned into a nightmare first appearance for former Ballymena United midfielder Winchester, who was dismissed early in the second half for a challenge on Joe Crowe.
Glens’ chief Mick McDermott made three changes to the team that won at Solitude. He was missing the Donnelly brothers, Jay and Ruaidhri, whose mother Patricia passed away this week. The influential Seanan Clusas was suspended.
New signing Michael O’Connor was drafted in for his debut along with Crowe and McMenamin, who made a comeback following an injury sustained in the Big Two game against Linfield late last month.
There was a poignant moment between the ninth and 10th minutes – the shirt numbers of the Donnelly brothers – when the crowd paid tribute with a two-minute applause.
Following the opening bout of sparring, it was the home side who forged ahead on 12 minutes. Robinson showed great determined to meet Ben Kennedy’s teasing corner kick from the left and his header crashed past Aaron McCarey, possibly off the back of Glens defender Crowe.
Buoyed by that early breakthrough, the home team had a loud appeal for a penalty waved away by referee Jamie Robinson, when Paddy McClean had not one but two bites at the dangerous Kennedy, who went down after the second one, but the Lisburn official wasn’t impressed.
McCarey was also unhappy, claiming that Kennedy’s corner kick had crossed the line before it reached Robinson, which earned him a yellow card.
The Crues almost struck again on 16 minutes. Kennedy, at his impish best, was hauled down by Sean Murray and, when the midfielder whipped in another delicious free kick, Larmour got to it first, but his header brought a magical save from McCarey.
Disjointed and out of sorts, Mick McDermott’s boys had to wait until the half-hour mark to make any sort of impression at the other end. Bobby Burns made ground on the left before crossing for O’Connor, whose attempt at goal was brilliantly blocked by Larmour.
Whatever McDermott said at half-time, it worked because his team were back on terms three minutes after the interval.
McMenamin gobbled up a long pass from McClean and managed to trick his way past Burns and Robinson before thumping a low left-footed drive past Johnny Tuffey.
Then, it was Glentoran’s turn to shout for a penalty when McMenamin’s drive came off the body of defender Aidan Wilson, but again referee Robinson wasn’t convinced.
The game exploded for all the wrong reasons on 55 minutes when Winchester caught Crowe with a late tackle, but he was stunned when Mr Robinson pulled out a red card.
Glentoran’s comeback was complete on 65 minutes, with McMenamin turning provider this time. His persistence on the left took him past Ross Clarke and Burns and, when he whipped in a wonderful cross, it was brilliantly headed home by McDaid.
Murray could have wrapped it up in injury time, but Jordan Forsythe managed to hoof the midfielder’s shot off the line.
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns (Owens 80), Wilson, Lowry (Weir 69), Kennedy (McMurray 80), Forsythe, Winchester, Larmour, Headley, Robinson, Clarke (Caddell 69).
Unused subs: O’Neill, Lecky, O’Rourke.
GLENTORAN: McCarey, Burns, Marshall, McDaid, Murray, McClean, O’Connor (Mitchell 79), Crowe, Marron, McMenamin (Garrett 90), Plum.
Unused subs: Smith, Cushnie, Wightman, Jenkins, Glendinning.
Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown)
Man of the match: Conor McMenamin.
Match rating: 9/10.