CRUSADERS 0 GLENTORAN 1
Jordan Stewart came off the bench to fire home the winning goal as Glentoran claimed the Northern Ireland Hospice Charity Shield.
Stewart – introduced as a 54th-minute replacement for Fra McCaffrey – dispatched a clinical strike past Sean O’Neill in the 70th minute.
It was the defining moment in a competitive Shield clash as last season’s Irish Cup winners – who also missed a first-half penalty – earned a 1-0 win against the Premiership champions at Solitude.
Stewart was only returning following a two-week suspension imposed by Glentoran after the winger played for another club in a friendly fixture.
And it was a match-winning cameo from a player who continues to be linked with a move across the water.
Crues winger Gavin Whyte threatened in the fourth minute, racing past the static Marcus Kane before squaring the ball to Matthew Snoddy who dragged his shot wide of the post.
At the other end Danny McKee’s speculative shot sailed safely into the arms of Sean O’Neill in the 17th minute.
Kane came to Glentoran’s rescue in the 22nd minute when he hooked Snoddy’s header off the line.
The Crues were then denied by the woodwork in the 35th minute when Whyte’s 25-yard strike clipped the top of the crossbar.
The Premiership champions were on the front foot again one minute later, but Richard Clarke’s shot drifted well wide.
The Glens were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute when Declan Caddell – who later limped off with a foot injury – was adjudged to have dragged down Stevie Gordon inside the box.
Defender Jay Magee claimed responsibility of the spot-kick but dragged his effort low and wide.
Glens goalkeeper Elliott Morris saved at his near post from Jordan Owens’ header while at the other end O’Neill parried Steve McCullough’s shot.
Crusaders started the second half brightly and should have claimed the lead in the 48th minute.
Owens crossed for Diarmuid O’Carroll but the striker miscued a free header wide of the mark.
Less than a minute later Whyte cut inside from the right and then fizzed a left-foot shot inches wide of Morris’ post.
Whyte was at it again in the 56th minute, but the winger’s low drive skidded off the surface and clipped the outside of the post.
The Glens went route one in the 61st minute when Stephen McAlorum lofted a high ball into the box, but Gordon’s header was easily saved.
The Glens forged ahead in the 70th minute with substitute Stewart showcasing his finishing prowess.
It came from a clearance from O’Neill, and when the ball was headed back from the Glens midfield Stewart raced through on goal before dispatching a fierce volley past the Crues ‘keeper at the near post.
The Crues searched for a reply, with Snoddy going close during a goalmouth scramble in the 82nd minute, but the Glens held on for the victory.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Magowan, McClean, Caddell (Mitchell 44), Snoddy, Clarke, O’Carroll (O’Flynn 83), Owens, Whyte.
Subs not used: McKibbin, Coates.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Birney, Magee, Garrett, Kane, McCullough (Scullion 80), Gibson (Allen 58), McAlorum, Gordon, McKee, McCaffrey (Stewart 54).
Subs not used: Hogg, Addis.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)