Glentoran assistant manager Tiernan Lynch refused to read too much into Jordan Stewart’s muted celebrations on Saturday.
The versatile winger emerged from the substitutes’ bench to bag the winning goal against Crusaders in the Northern Ireland Hospice Charity Shield.
Stewart – a 54th-minute replacement for Fra McCaffrey – took 16 minutes to showcase his quality at Solitude.
The 20-year-old raced onto a through ball before dispatching a clinical strike past Sean O’Neill to earn a 1-0 victory.
It was a telling cameo from a player who recently felt the wrath of his Oval employers.
Stewart was hit with a two-week suspension after he played for junior side Suffolk United in a pre-season friendly against Distillery.
The winger has also been linked with a move away from Glentoran this summer, with English League One outfit Barnsley having already had a bid rejected.
What the future holds between now and the end of the transfer window remains to be seen, but Lynch insists Stewart is still a pivotal part of Glentoran’s plans for next year and beyond.
“I think Jordan has been frustrated. He has some much ability – the kid has serious talent,” Lynch said.
“He is just a little bit young and naive and does stupid things at times, which can obviously frustrate a club that pays his wages.
“He is a massive part of what we are doing and where we want to go. It’s just frustration.
“The muted celebration was just Jordan being Jordan. I wouldn’t read too much into it – he did what he did.”
Lynch hopes Saturday’s Shield success can provide the Glens with a platform to build on ahead of Saturday’s Danske Bank Premiership curtain-raiser against Coleraine.
Stewart’s goal came after Jay Magee had dragged a first-half penalty woefully wide of the target.
The Crues also hit the woodwork twice through Gavin Whyte, while Marcus Kane had to make a goal-line clearance from Matthew Snoddy.
“We spoke to the boys before the match and said that this wasn’t a charity game for us. This wasn’t a friendly. This was the first day of our season,” said Lynch, who was standing in for Eddie Patterson who is currently on holidays.
“And I think they showed that in abundance. Their work rate, commitment and desire was second to none and they carried out our instructions.
“We are where we want to be. We have learned from last season that we have to be able to win ugly. People talk about how good a footballing side we are, but we need that physical edge and have to hurt teams.
“We needed to play against teams like Crusaders, who are big, strong and physical. Today was a perfect start for us.”
Reflecting on defender Magee’s poor spot-kick, Lynch joked: “I didn’t actually see the penalty because I was remonstrating with the fourth official at the time.
“We might have to find a new penalty taker. Maybe there was someone in the crowd he wanted to hit.”