Glenavon .... (0)0 ...... Crusaders .... (1)4
Crusaders breezed past the Lurgan Blues to reach the second round of this season’s Irish Cup.
But despite the north Belfast side’s superiority there was controversy aplenty.
And... should they watch this one back, the men in yellow will feel they’ve had better nights.
There was a catalogue of doubt: Crusaders’ Billy Joe Burns was probably fortunate to remain on the pitch after he unbalanced Paddy Burns going through one on one with Tuffey, an incorrectly disallowed Glenavon goal in the opening minute of the 2nd half should have levelled the tie and Josh Robinson’s handball prior to Heatley’s second, Crusaders fourth, went undetected and should instead have brought a penalty to Glenavon.
Bring on VAR! They could’ve used it last night, that’s for sure...
It was not officialdom’s finest hour. Not Glenavon’s either if truth be told. They were poor and looked a team intent in proving their manager right, when recently he suggested how difficult it is for part-time clubs to meet full-timers on a week night.
For his part, Hamilton was beside himself with anger, but that all would’ve started as early as the 4th minute and had nothing to do with the refereeing team.
Glenavon had already enjoyed an earlier let off when Taylor and his defenders somehow managed to repel Heatley’s fierce, close-range volley. The recycled ball was collected by Forsythe in midfield who advanced unchallenged, watched the centre of Glenavon’s defence part before his very eyes and let fly from 20 yards. Shocking defending. 1-0!
One team looked up for it right from the off, the other as though they’d prefer to be in from the cold.
Crusaders should have been out of sight by half-time, Ben Kennedy again playing the central striking role and Ross Clarke each failing to convert straightforward opportunities.
Had the incident involving the two Burns resulted in a red card, then who knows? There certainly was contact. The ref played on.
Glenavon had their best spell just after the interval. Crues weathered it with the help of an errant offside decision when Snoddy netted what appeared the to be the equalizer, and possibly a correct one when Waterworth bundled home shortly after.
Crusaders from then on were content to sit back and counter which they did to devastating effect. Heatley could have taken a fleet of buses with him as Glenavon’s Red Sea defence again allowed free passage through the middle, the front man connecting with Wilson’s accurate, long ball before rounding Taylor.
Then Kennedy, not looking his most comfortable throughout much of the evening playing with back to goal, reaped his reward on 67 mins. Another Crues break, the former Stevenage man ran onto a pass, cut in from the left and bent a sublime finish past Taylor. It was goal of the night, it killed Glenavon dead.
Then came that second Heatley goal following Robinson’s undetected handball. It bore more than a hint of offside side too as Wallace, Glenavon's last man, held the line. Undeterred, Heatley ran clear of the Glenavon rearguard and finished clinically past Taylor.
By then Glenavon boss Hamilton was resigned to his side’s fate, but at various times earlier he struggled to contain his frustration, even at one stage, upon the restart, coming into the stand to speak with Alan Snoddy, presumably present as refereeing observer.
On another occasion Hamilton entered the Director’s area to consult with his chairman, clearly finding events difficult to stomach.
And his relatively outward calm disguised deep-seated irritation during Glenavon Media’s post-match interview in which the manager unequivocally spoke his mind.
All that apart it was not a good night for Glenavon. They looked abject and second-best all over the pitch save for a ten minute spell beyond half-time.
Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders won’t be worrying about that. On the back of a third game in seven days following their Covid-affected festive period, last night’s was their fifth clean-sheet in a row. The Crues have rediscovered their mettle and look up for a cup run coupled with a push in the league.
The lack of an effective striker up top could undermine such an aspiration, but it is January.... and I wonder what Baxter has up his sleeve...
GLENAVON: Taylor, Ward, Haughey (Hunter, 75 ), Wallace, Singleton, Fitzpatrick, O’Connor (J Doyle, 75), Snoddy, P Burns (Scannell, 62), McCloskey (Hall, 75), Waterworth.
Unused subs: Stafford, A Doyle, Beggs.
Manager: Gary Hamilton
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, BJ Burns (O’Rourke, 80 ), Robinson, Larmour, Wilson, Clarke, Lowry (Caddell, 70 ), Weir (Frazer, 84), Heatley (Owens, 84), Forsythe, Kennedy (Lecky, 80). Unused subs: O’Neill, Hegarty.
Manager: Stephen Baxter
Referee: Tim Marshall