Lee Lynch fires Larne forward with only goal over Crusaders
Lee Lynch fired home a second-half strike to send Larne up to second in the Danske Bank Premiership standings.
Victory confirmed a bright future for the Inver Park outfit on a night Larne managed to draw a line under past pain with a first home league win over Crusaders in 17 years.
Lynch made his mark on 77 minutes with a low drive by the substitute to cap a move started from the back before strong running from another player off the bench in Andrew Scott ended in a delicate but decisive assist by Mark Randall to find the scorer in space.
The Crues’ Sean O’Neill may feel frustrated at the shot finding a way past his body, especially on an appearance which featured some smart stops from the experienced goalkeeper.
O’Neill produced a fine save to deny Randall during a frantic opening half-hour period which produced sights of goal by both sides.
Paul Heatley was a livewire presence in the Crusaders attack early on as he tested Rohan Ferguson with one attempt then the Crues carved out a key opening off a surging run by the away side’s playmaker.
On six minutes, he burst into the danger area and across from the left - with Adam Lecky opting to take on the shot from the loose ball and Heatley’s momentum into his path may have played a part in the striker steering the shot wide from a superb position.
The Crues offered a threat off set-piece situations and Declan Caddell opted for an ambitious attempt from distance in open play.
Then O’Neill was forced into another stop - this time to stop Ben Doherty as the winger took advantage of time and space inside the area to fire goalwards only for the Crusaders goalkeeper to prove alert.
John Herron was brave from a few yards to frustrate Johnny McMurray after Billy Joe Burns’ swinging delivery was attacked by Lecky and Ferguson could not collect under pressure.
Navid Nasseri injected a late spark before the break by linking up with Doherty around the edge of the box before having his shot diverted away from danger by a sliding Aidan Wilson.
And Nasseri produced the final talking point of the first half by forcing O’Neill into another smart stop.
Randall and Ben Kennedy had long-range efforts at each end then, past the hour mark, the double introduction of Lynch and Scott helped to turn the clash in the favour of the hosts.
Scott offered a direct approach and it resulted in the game’s only goal on 77 minutes.
Crusaders came close to a rapid response but McMurray’s powerful drive was stopped by Ferguson at his near post then a Kennedy corner-kick clipped the crossbar as Larne managed to protect the lead.
LARNE: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly (Watson, 80), Sule (Bolger, 56), Herron, Nasseri (Lynch, 65), Randall (Hale, 80), McDaid, Doherty (Scott, 65), Cosgrove, Hughes.
Subs (not used): Argyrides, Jarvis.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Wilson, Kennedy, Lecky (Frazer, 89), Caddell (Weir, 72), Forsythe, O’Rourke, Heatley (Clarke, 80), Robinson, McMurray (Owens, 80), Frazer.
Subs (not used): Tuffey, Hegarty, Thompson.
REFEREE: Andrew Davey.
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