Photo: Bill Guiller
Lee Lynch came off the bench to score the only goal of the game 13 minutes from time, as Larne claimed an important 1-0 win at home to Crusaders.
Lynch’s goal came 13 minutes from time – as he combined with the fellow substitute Andy Scott and Mark Randall – and it was enough to move Tiernan Lynch’s side into second place in the Danske Bank Premiership.
It was a bright start to the game for Crusaders, however and they will be disappointed not to have taken the lead on six minutes. Adam Lecky and Paul Heatley led the break for the visitors on the left flank, finding themselves two-on-one with home defender Kofi Balmer.
As the broke towards the edge of the box Heatley slipped in Lecky, who scored the only goal when the two sides met at Seaview in September, but this time the big striker side-footed wide with just home goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson to beat.
Two minutes Larne went close themselves, as the ball broke to Mark Randall outside the ‘D’ but his half volley on the turn was well held by Sean O’Neill.
This sparked a good spell for the home side, and they went close nine minutes later, when defensive midfielder Fuad Sule broke clear into the box, but his pull back for Davy McDaid was smothered by the Crues defence.
At the other end, Crusaders were next to threaten from a Ben Kennedy free-kick on the right flank. The former Stevenage midfielder delivered a dangerous cross to the back post, with central defender Aidan Wilson heading into the side netting.
Stephen Baxter’s side, who showed a full 11 changes from their midweek County Antrim Shield defeat at Ballyclare, continued to look threatening on the break in particular.
They were almost presented with the game’s opening goal five minutes before the half-time whistle.
BJ Burns high ball into the box was misjudged by home ‘keeper Rohan Ferguson who spilled it at the feet of Adam Lecky, however the Larne rearguard reacted quickly with veteran defender Jeff Hughes clearing off the line.
At the other end, Navid Nasseri played a one-two with Ben Doherty on the edge of the Crusaders box, but his curling effort was deflected behind for a corner by Aidan Wilson.
Half-time: Larne 0 Crusaders 0
Larne began the second period with good purpose, but the closest they came after the restart was Mark Randall’s 20 yard free-kick, which ended the wrong side of Sean O’Neill’s upright.
Just before the hour mark Tiernan Lynch’s side almost broke the deadlock through the same route, but this time O’Neill had to tip Randall’s set piece over the bar.
While Larne had built up a head of steam, the Crues remained dangerous, with Ben Kennedy flashing a curling effort just over the crossbar, after finding space 25 yards out.
With Larne in the ascendancy as the second half wore on, boss Lynch made two attacking subs and they combined as the deadlock was broken 13 minutes from time.
Andy Scott turned sharply in the centre of the park and surged towards the Crusaders before slipping in fellow sub Lee Lynch, who took a touch before drilling low between the legs of the unfortunate O’Neill in the visitors’ goal.
Baxter’s men were almost level instantly as Johnny McMurray, on his return to Inver Park, found space on the right flank but Rohan Ferguson got down well to save at his near post. From the resulting corner, Ben Kennedy’s cross came crashing off the top of the Larne crossbar.
With Jordan Owens, Johnny Frazer and Ross Clarke all sent from the bench Crusaders applied late pressure, but Larne held on for the points.
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly (’81 Watson), Sule (’57 Bolger), Herron, Nasseri (’66 Scott), Randall (’81 Hale), McDaid, Doherty (’66 Lynch), Cosgrove, Hughes Unused subs: Argyrides, Jarvis
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Wilson, Kennedy, Lecky (’89 Frazer), Caddell (’73 Weir), Forsythe, O’Rourke, Heatley (’81 Clarke), Robinson, McMurray (’81 Owens) Unused subs: Tuffey, Hegarty, Thompson
Referee: Andrew Davey