It was another dramatic night at Seaview as Crusaders came from 3-1 behind to win the TOALSBookmakers.com Co Antrim Shield 4-3 as that man David Cushley scored yet another superb injury time goal to win it for Crusaders. 3-1 down at the start of the second half three goals in the second half including two in the last four minutes (two of which where in injury time) won it in some style.
The game started in awful conditions with wind and rain beating down. Linfield had the wind in their favour and Crusaders found it hard to get out of their half as the ball just kept coming back at them. Sean Ward did well early on in defence as Linfield forced early corners but they eventually went ahead on 9 minutes when Sean O'Neills punch at the ball only helped steer it into the path of Mark Stafford who headed home at the back post. Linfield pushed on and Sean O'Neill made up for his mistake earlier with a good save at the near post. Crusaders started to play their way into the game and Jordan Owens just could not connect to a great cross by Billy Joe Burns and a minute later could not get his header on target in the next attack. It was Conor Mitchell the Linfield keeper who was next to nearly make a mistake when he nearly punched into his own net and he was on hand a few minutes later when he saved smartly from a David Cushley strike. It was David Cushley though who equalised just a minute later on 28 minutes with a trademark shot from just outside the box that flew past Mitchell giving him no chance and it was 1-1. The celebrations where cut very short as Linfield scored immediately when an Andy Waterworth shot was palmed into the path of Kirk Millar by Sean O'Neill and he made no mistake after 29 minutes. A minute later again Linfield where 3-1 up when Crusaders tried to clear and a Billy Joe Burns attempted clearance hit Colin Coates on the head and went straight in and it looked like Linfield where in a good position as the weather continued to get worse. Sean O'Neill tipped a Linfield effort over and as the half ended Declan Caddell was unlucky as his first shot was saved by the foot of Mitchell before his follow up was deflected wide. With no further action Linfield went in 3-1 up.
The second half the bad weather continued and Crusaders came out this half with the wind to their advantage. Kyle Owens replaced the injured Michael Ruddy and Ross Clarke replaced Rory Hale for the start of the half and Crusaders went for it from the off. Philip Lowrys header went straight to Mitchell before Declan Caddell had another shot blocked. Crusaders had the ball in the net on 51 minutes but it was ruled offside and their intentions had been made very clear about what they where going to do the whole half which was to throw everything at Linfield. David Cushley had a header saved and Jordan Forsythes goalbound effort was cleared by Matt Clarke before a Sean Ward rasper was deflected inches wide of the post on the hour mark. From the corner Crusaders pulled another goal back and this time Colin Coates scored in the right net when he rose majestically and planted the ball firmly in the net on 60 minutes and it was 3-2 Linfield. A minute later Coates went close again but this time he hit the post with his header from close range and the chance went begging. Crusaders pushed on but it was Linfield who threatened next with a shot that went not far wide. Sean O'Neill then made a magnificent save on 70 minutes when a high ball that everyone thought was going over the bar caught in the wind and from a Mark Stafford overhead kick O'Neill made a an acrobatic save to his left and Crusaders where still in the game. A good block from Colin Coates and a great defensive tackle by Declan Caddell kept Crusaders in it and when Ronan Hale replaced Philip Lowry on 77 minutes it was still all to play for. Crusaders shouted for two penalties in quick succession but they where waved away by the referee and Kyle Owens headed just over with 10 minutes left. Crusaders kept the pressure on and on 88 minutes they where rewarded with an equaliser. A corner in fell beautifully in the six yard box and it was Jordan Forsythe who came through unmarked and crashed the ball home making it 3-3. Crusaders smelt blood and kept going and when the fourth official put the board up for two additional minutes they knew it wasn't over. In the second added minute Crusaders got a free kick and as Jordan Forsythe floated the ball in David Cushley rose like a salmon and headed the ball past Mitchell to send Seaview into meltdown and it was 4-3 to Crusaders and the fightback was complete. With no further time to play the whistle was blown and Crusaders retained the Co. Antrim Shield for another year.
What a game and what a way to win the Shield. A massive round of applause to the players for providing such a great game in horrendous conditions and to the supporters who came out and got behind the teams. It was a classic and will live in the memory for years ahead with David Cushley once again with a late late goal to win at the Railway End of the ground which is becoming his trade mark. Crusaders do not know when to lie down and that is why we are who we are!!! Keep The Faith