Ballymena United striker Gary Liggett admitted his winning goal against Crusaders could be “the most important of the season”.
Liggett – a second half substitute – struck in the last minute to pinch three vital Danske Bank Premiership points against a side that hadn’t tasted a domestic defeat at Seaview since August 2012.
Timmy Adamson shot the Crues into the lead early in the second half, but Shane Dolan – another substitute – levelled with 13 minutes left before Liggett took centre stage.
The relief in the Ballymena camp was tangible.
They could at last erase the memory of last week’s horrible opening defeat by Glenavon when they were beaten 6-3.
Ironically, Liggettt became a victim of that result as he was dumped to he bench for the team’s visit to the Shore Road.
“It may not have been one of my best goals, but it was one of the most important in terms of getting the Glenavon experience out of our system,” said Liggett.
“This time last week we were all totally depressed, so it helped give everyone a lift – the manager, the players and the supporters.
“Everyone did a bit of soul searching. We regrouped in training and we refocused for what is always a tough game at Seaview.
“What was pleasing is the fact we didn’t panic when Crusaders took the lead we showed character to hit back to win the game. We must now push on.”
Liggett is now hoping he did enough to persuade manager Glenn Ferguson to reinstate him to the starting eleven.
“I worked hard over the summer, probably harder than anyone,” he added.
“I tried to lose a bit of weight and get myself sharper. I feel much fitter.
“It’s just a matter of building up my confidence. Most strikers need to play with lots of confidence.“I’ve had no problems with that. He had to make changes. And, it worked for us, which proved he was right.
“I know I’m not going to play in all 38 games, so I must make sure I make an impact when I get the chance. I think I did that today.”
Liggett certainly demonstrated his potential with his stunning winner, that roared into the bottom corner, beyond goalkeeper Sean O’Neill.
“I hit it well, but when you haven’t scored a lot of goals, it doesn’t matter what way they go in,” he laughed.
“I don’t set targets. Most strikers start out wanting 20 goals. If I reach that I’d be more than happy. “
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter insisted his team didn’t get what they deserved.
He said: “The Ballymena guys admitted they stole it – and that’s what they did.
“If our boys keep producing that brand of football, they will win more than they lose, it was great to watch. I thought we were fabulous.
“We played some super stuff, created chances, hit the woodwork on a few occasions and their goalkeeper (Dwayne Nelson) made a series of stunning saves. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football.
“Perhaps I get annoyed when we play badly, but I couldn’t fault the lads -- I thought they were excellent. I’m just disappointed with the result.
“We’ll not moan about it, we’ll just get on with it – we have Linfield here next week.
“It’s now a big game for both clubs.”
Meanwhile, Ballymena midfielder David Cushley may face a lengthy spell on the treatment table after sustaining a medial ligament injury in Saturday’s game.
The little midfielder, who attracted admiring glances from Linfield over the summer, will undergo a full examination this week.
United boss Glenn Ferguson said: “I’m led to believe that Cushley’s has sustained a medial ligament injury, but our sports therapist will confirm that during the week.
“He is having a rough time at the minute. ‘Cush’ was out for 10 weeks with a collapsed lung and now he faces another period on the treatment table.”