CRUSADERS: Jamie Glackin the hero over Cliftonville in County Antrim Shield thriller
Holders Crusaders edged this North Belfast derby to march into the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield.
Jamie Glackin hit the vital winner to maintain the Shore Road team’s interest in a tournament they have previously won on seven occasions.
It has to be said, the game didn’t ignite until the second half - but when the fuse was lit, it provided the fireworks expected from the bitter rivals.
Paul Heatley shot the Crues into an early lead, which was wiped by Rory Donnelly’s first goal of the season.
Michael Carvill again gave the home team the advantage after the break, only for substitute Ryan Curran to plunder a late leveller and send the game into extra-time.
The Reds then forged ahead for the first time when Rory Donnelly struck again, but they surrendered their advantage within 60 seconds – Philip Lowry netting from close range.
It was Glackin’s 105th-minute strike that eventually got the Crues over the line.
Heatley was quick out of the blocks, giving Crusaders the lead on six minutes. Reds midfielder Stephen Garrett was shamefully caught in possession by Declan Caddell, who sent the little striker roaring through the middle and his finish was emphatic, ramming a vicious shot into the bottom corner leaving Brian Neeson hopelessly beaten.
The Reds were on the ropes for a period after that opening. Another bout of poor defending ended with David Cushley curling a good chance over the crossbar.
Neeson was next to join the comedy of errors when he rushed from his line to deal with a long, hopeful punt through the middle. He completely missed the first attempt, but had better luck with the second, with the alert Heatley ready to cash in.
Barry Gray’s Cliftonville boys managed to drag themselves back into the game, equalising in their first meaningful foray into their opponents’ half.
The Donnelly brothers, Jay and Rory, impressively combined and when the former Swansea man cut in from the right, he curled a delicious shot into the top corner, leaving Sean O’Neill stranded.
Crusaders appeared after the half-time cuppa with all guns blazing. Heatley blasted wide on 47 minutes following a lighting break involving Glackin and Caddell.
Then, Cushley tried his luck with a trademark blockbuster from 20 yards that had Neeson at full stretch at the base of the post.
But the home fans were celebrating on 52 minutes when Carvill struck – a goal that will give big defender Damien McNulty nightmares as the latter’s attempted clearance presented Heatley with a clear run at goal.
The little striker’s shot was superbly saved by Neeson. Glackin was first to react and, after weaving his way into the box, drilled in a low cross that was thumped home by the former Linfield man.
Then, another McNulty blunder let in the lively Glackin, whose cross found Heatley but his shot from four yards was brilliantly saved by the diving Neeson.
But the Reds were level again with only six minutes left. Jay Donnelly sent in a great cross from the left, leaving Curran with a simple tap-in.
Rory Donnelly required only three minutes of extra-time to shoot the Reds into the lead, poking home after O’Neill had saved from Joe Gormley.
The Crues went straight to the other end and Lowry provided a neat finish to a Glackin corner-kick.
And, it was Glackin who won it on 105 minutes, finishing at the second attempt after his initial shot had hit the post.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Beverland, Lowry, Ward, Carvill, Cushley (Snoddy, 80), Caddell (Thompson, 82), Ruddy, Brown, Heatley, Patterson (Glackin, 24).
Subs (not used): Doherty, Holden.
CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, McGovern, Breen, Garrett (Curran, 71), R.Donnelly, Catney, Gormley, J.Donnelly, Lavery, McMenamin (McConnell, 82), McNulty.
Subs (not used): Brush, Maguire, A.Donnelly.
REFEREE: Keith Kennedy.