IRISH LEAGUE: O'Neill revels in hero status as Crues edge a win
The sign of a good team is when they can grind out a win even though they are not at their best - and that would sum up Crusaders on Saturday as they saw off Coleraine 1-0 at Seaview.
This hard won result moves the Shore Road club six points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premier League even though they were far from their swash-buckling best.
But as the champions they are they found a way to win against a Coleraine side who maybe deserved more from the game after Lyndon Kane’s penalty was saved in the 89th minute.
The fact that Crues keeper Sean O’Neill was named Man of the Match after making a multitude of fantastic saves about sums up the match in a nut-shell.
O’Neill was supreme and his penalty save and a flying touch from Jordan Allan in the 90th minute meant his side won the day.
And the Crusaders goalkeeper was pleased that a first half header from Jordan Owens had given his side three valuable league points.
“It is a big three points after the way the other games have gone today.
“We know that you don’t get medals at this time of the year but it was three points nearer to what we want to achieve this season. It is a big three points.
“We are six points clear but that counts for nothing. I would rather be six points clear at the end of the season.
And O’Neill was glad he could keep his team in the match as the Bannsiders pushed for an equaliser in the final few minutes.
“I was pleased with all the saves and it is always nice to save the penalty.
“But I think the last one near the end when the guy hit the volley and I got the slightest of touches on it - it goes anywhere else and it’s a goal. That was nice but sometimes you are the villain and the next week you are the hero. And thankfully I made the saves,” he added.
And O’Neill believes the Crues were not firing on all cylinders at the weekend.
“We were not really on it, We huffed and puffed but we know from the last few years that when things aren’t going well you dig deep and grind out a result and that is what we did today,” he said.
Coleraine boss Oran Kearney was disappointed his side did not get something from the game after creating so many chances.
“Disappointed that we cam away from the game with nothing - not even a draw.
“When you see the league champions trying to wasting time and screaming and shouting after they cleared a corner.
“I think it shows you the pressure we put them under. I think it shows us where we are at. We are maybe a year or two behind them.
“We were a bit naive and then Crusaders get that trademark goal they always score.
“Disappointed but performance wise if we play like that every week, we will win more than we will lose.
“This game is about winning games and points and in a few months no-one will remember how well we played. That’s football,” added the Coleraine manager.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Beverland, Gault, Mitchell, Carvill, Caddell, Heatley, Clarke, Owens. Subs: Dougherty, McClean, Jallow, Soares, Cushley.
Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Douglas, McAuley, Brown, Kee, McConaghie, Lyons, Parkhill, McGonigle, Allan. Subs: Mullan, Higgins, Ogilby, McCafferty, Law.
Referee: R Crangle.