Report by Peter Wilson
Larne came away from Seaview with a point after playing out a six-goal thriller with Crusaders.
Ronan Hale scored a brace in the first half with Jamie McGonigle responding for the Crues to leave it 2-1 to the visitors at the break. The second half produced a further three goals, as Chris Hegarty levelled for the hosts before Johnny McMurray restored the Invermen’s lead with 10 minutes remaining. Ben Kennedy put the game back on level terms late on with a successful spot kick with just two minutes remaining.
The game was the first for Larne since their 1-0 defeat at home to Ballymena United on 2nd January.
Both sides sought to make their mark on the game from the beginning at Seaview. Davy McDaid had his strike disallowed for offside while Philip Lowry hooked his shot wide from the edge of the box.
The Invermen went ahead in delightful fashion on 19 minutes as Ronan Hale took one touch and produced a thunderous strike from 35 yards which rocketed beyond Ger Doherty, into the bottom left corner of the goal. A goal worthy of the watching Sky Sports cameras.
Hale doubled his and the visitors’ lead just after the half hour mark when he tapped in after Marty Donnelly’s free-kick came crashing back off the crossbar.
McGonigle pulled one back for the north Belfast side five minutes from the break as Lowry played the ball through nicely to the striker, who unleashed a brilliant half-volley which curled past Conor Devlin into the top left.
Half-time: Crusaders 1 Larne 2
Crusaders came out in the second half searching for an equaliser and Paul Heatley headed Billy Joe Burns’ cross onto the crossbar six minutes into the second period.
The home side’s equaliser arrived on 73 when Chris Hegarty headed in from close range after Lowry’s header from Jarlath O’Rourke’s free-kick could only be pushed onto the goalframe by Devlin.
Larne assumed the lead again with 10 minutes of normal time to go when Johnny McMurray’s challenge on Burns on the edge of the box deceived Doherty with the ball rolling across the line and into the bottom left corner.
The Crues restored parity eight minutes later however, when substitute Ben Kennedy converted a spot kick after Dean Jarvis had handled David Cushley’s free-kick.
Full-time: Crusaders 3 Larne 3
Crusaders:Doherty, Burns, Hegarty, Wilson, Lowry, McGonigle (Cushley 86’), Caddell (c) (Kennedy 79’), Forsythe, O’Rourke, Lecky, Heatley (Owens 67’)
Subs not used:O’Neill, Weir, Ruddy, Brown
Larne:Devlin, Watson, Robinson, Herron, Sule, Randall (A Mitchell 72’), Hale (McMurray 69’), McDaid, Donnelly, Cosgrove, Jarvis
Subs not used:C Mitchell, Kelly, Scott, McKendry, Wade Slater
Larne have two home games in seven days as they face Coleraine on Tuesday 26 January (7.45pm) and Glentoran on Friday 29 January (7.45pm).
Photo: Andy Scullion