Belfast Telegraph

Larne and Crusaders fail to excite in goalless draw at Inver Park

Larne’s Albert Watson
Larne’s Albert Watson

By Ian Cahoon

Larne and Crusaders produced a damp squib of a goalless draw in front of the Sky cameras at Inver Park.

It was hotly anticipated game between two sides in the top six, but it failed to live up to the billing.

There was also a bit of history made for the home side, as it was their first game to be shown live on Sky Sports.

Unlike Larne’s previous two televised games in 2019, with goals galore on BBC each time, this turned out to be a tame affair.

They lost out 5-3 to Coleraine in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup in March, but being edged out 3-2 by Glentoran in the league last month.

This one just didn’t take off, between two sides who came into it with only one win in each of their last six games.

The quiet opening period of the game gave a glimpse of what was to come, as both sides look to work each other out, making for a cagey opening quarter.

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If anything, it was visitors started in more composed fashion and they were first to try to break the deadlock on 20 minutes.

Lee Lynch lost possession on the right flank, with Paul Heatley trying his luck from distance, however it drifted comfortably wide of Conor Devlin’s right hand post.

Twelve minutes later, Heatley was again in the thick of the action. Crusaders forced a number of corners, and their latest found the Crusaders danger man on the edge of the box.

However, Heatley’s half volley was a few yards wide of Devlin’s right post.

Larne’s first chance of note came on 32 minutes. The Crusaders defence was caught under the high ball, allowing Davy McDaid an effort from 15 yards out, left of centre, but his low effort ended up drifting well wide.

The first effort on target arrived two minutes into the second half, with Declan Caddell firing an effort from almost 25 yards out, but Devlin was down low to his left to make a smart save.

With 58 minutes gone, Crusaders almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances. Jamie McGonigle’s whipped cross from the right flank, was sliced over his own crossbar by a relieved Harry Flowers.

In the end, the game petered out to its expected conclusion in the driving rain, with neither side able to conjure a moment of magic - or even a shot on target - to win the game.

The closest to a decisive moment was Larne’s stoppage time penalty shout for a handball, but referee Keith Kennedy waved away the strong protests from the home side.

It’s a point which does little for either side’s ambitions, leaving Crusaders in third place, six points behind leaders Coleraine, after the Bannsiders latest victory at the weekend.

As for Larne, it edges them four points clear of rivals Ballymena, with Tiernan Lynch’s men still sitting in sixth place.

Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Kelly, Watson, Sule, McDaid, Tilney (Donnelly ’54), Lynch (Randall ’59), Cosgrove, Hughes, McMurray

Unused subs: Mitchell, Ramsey, McKendry, Andrade, Gilmour

Crusaders: Doherty, Burns, Coates, Lowry, McGonigle (J Owens ’73), Hale, Caddell, Forsythe, Ruddy, Heatley (Cushley ’73), Clarke

Unused subs: O’Neill, Beverland, O’Rourke, Thompson, McElroy

Referee: Keith Kennedy

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