Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey heaped praise on Caolan Loughran for a top performance in his side's 3-2 victory over Crusaders at Seaview on Wednesday evening.
Former Cheltenham Town forward Jonte Smith was the two-goal hero for United but the boss held special praise over for his centre-half, who rejoined his hometown club from Carrick Rangers during the summer.
“I’ve got to say, Caolan Loughran was absolutely immense,” Jeffrey beamed.
“After a recent game, Caolan was subject to quite a bit of abuse; lets call it as it is.
“I said ‘Caolan, I know why you came back and we’ll keep believing’. We’re not getting carried away tonight but if there was one player I thought was magnificent, it was Caolan Loughran.
“They were all fantastic but Caolan epitomised that: I may be down but I’ll keep getting back up again.”
The result was a welcome distraction from the league form that has seen United win only one of their first seven fixtures.
“I’m very proud of the players,” Jeffrey said. “People maybe think we’re off our heads, but we came here expecting to win.
“You can want or need to win all you want but unless you take it to that next level of actually expecting, then things will maybe go against you."
Meanwhile, there was some spot-kick controversy at Mourneview Park between Glenavon and Glentoran.
Paddy McLean netted the winning penalty for the east Belfast visitors in sudden death after extra-time ended 2-2.
The game had finished 0-0 at 90 minutes before bursting into life.
After Robbie McDaid opened the scores for the Glens, Andy Hall levelled with a penalty kick that brought rather differing reactions from the two managers.
For Glenavon chief Gary Hamilton, it should have resulted in the opposition being reduced to 10 men when Rhys Marshall after down winger Peter Campbell.
“You don’t want to see anybody sent off but when Peter broke into the box and won the penalty, you usually see a yellow card given,” said Hamilton. “It wasn’t and that might have changed the direction of the game.”
However, as the collision happened right on the edge of the box, Glentoran boss Mick McDermott queried where exactly the foul had taken place.
"Speaking to some of the players and even Rhys Marshall himself, he says it’s never a penalty,” he said. “Without seeing the video footage, I doubt it was even in the box.
“To concede a penalty like that, whether it was a penalty or not, and go to 1-1 was criminal.”
To add to the drama, Glenavon chief Hamilton reckoned his side should have been given a spot-kick during normal time.
“I think Peter Campbell should have been given a penalty kick in the second half, when he broke into the box from a short corner. He’s about to cross the ball and gets put over in the box,” he added.
The result took Glentoran into the quarter-finals and, according to McDermott, was much down to the efforts of stopper Aaron McCarey.
“Aaron was exceptional, coming for crosses, commanding his box, penalties, free-kicks he did well,” said the boss.
“He’s a quality keeper, a calming influence. We’re lucky we’ve got three good keepers and I have confidence in every single one of them.
“Glenavon put a lot of pressure on you and if you’re not composed and organised back there, then you suffer.
“You might say Glenavon didn’t deserve to lose but I thought we deserved to win in terms of chances. Maybe they had more territory in the first half but I thought over the course of the game, we shaded it.”
And in east Antrim, Coleraine manager Oran Kearney was happy to let 22-year-old striker Matthew Shevlin take the praise for his brace in the 2-0 win over Carrick Rangers to add to his tally of five Premiership goals so far this term.
“He’s taken a lot of praise this season and at times maybe you want to clip his wings as well to try and keep him grounded but he’s a great lad,” Kearney said. “He’s worked extremely hard over the last six months and it’s great to see him getting his rewards.”