Crusaders 1 Lisburn Distillery 2: This was not the Lisburn Distillery team that couldn’t buy a win at the beginning of last season — or indeed, the Lisburn Distillery side that were taught a footballing lesson by Glentoran last weekend.
This was the Whites team we witnessed at the end of the last campaign — the one that digs in and somehow manages to pull something out of the fire.
On a baking hot day at Seaview, Tommy Wright’s men were finding the going tough and Martin Donnelly’s sensational early strike knocked them off their feet.
But Crusaders couldn’t kill off their plucky opponents and in the 84th minute the tide turned dramatically.
David Cushley levelled the scores, David Rainey could only hit a post, Gareth McKeown was sent off for striking out at Pat McShane and then Gary Browne blasted in the winner.
Donnelly’s goal was as pleasing on the eye as the final 10 minutes was as painful to watch for Crues fans.
Visiting boss Tommy Wright jumped for joy at the finish, in stark contrast to a week ago when a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Glentoran left him knocked for six.
“I thought Crusaders started very brightly as we expected them to, playing at home,” admitted the former Northern Ireland keeper.
“It was a great finish by Donnelly though we didn’t clear our lines. But I think we showed enough in the first half and enjoyed enough possession of the ball to take confidence from.
“We restricted Crusaders to long range efforts so we told them at half-time that the longer it stays at 1-0, we’re still in the game. The important thing was not to concede an early goal like against Glentoran and we kept in the game to the hour.
“We made changes and those who came on made a difference — sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. The players had belief to keep going for 94 minutes which is very important. Defenders defended like men and for them, I’m delighted we got the win.”
Crues boss Stephen Baxter struggled to comprehend how his players tossed away three points.
“I felt we were really good for the first 25 minutes,” he said. “We played super football and passed the ball well. We tried to alter things later but they got a foothold in the game and when that happens the other team takes encouragement and something will give.
“David (Rainey) missed from a yard and that would have been 2-0, game over.”