Draw at in-form Crusaders shows we belong in the top flight, says proud Loughgall manager Dean Smith

Loughgall players celebrate BenjI Magee's equaliser against Crusaders at Seaview (Photo: Andrew McCarroll)
Loughgall players celebrate BenjI Magee's equaliser against Crusaders at Seaview (Photo: Andrew McCarroll)

The promotion outfit looked like leaving the Shore Road empty handed as they trailed through Paul Heatley's finish and then seeing Aaron Duke sent-off for dissent.

However, Smith's team showed belief and endeavour to grab a share of the spoils as Benji Magee delightfully lobbed the ball over Johnny Tuffey for an 85th minute equaliser.

Loughgall had hit the crossbar in the first half via Caolan Loughran’s long range free-kick, whilst at the other end, Heatley could have had a hat-trick as he uncharacteristically fired two big opportunities wide before breaking the deadlock.

The point moves Loughgall up to sixth in the table with Crusaders knocked off the top by Linfield.

Smith said: "Without a doubt I'd have taken a point before a ball was kicked but I feel we deserved it for how we played and approached it.

"I have the footage of the red card but I haven't watched it back yet but Aaron is adamant nothing happened but giving the assistant referee the opportunity is silly by him.

"However, strangely enough, it probably helped us as they pushed forward to get the second and it left gaps at the back and it was a great finish by Benji."

Smith is now hoping that the entire club takes confidence from the result as they have made a strong start since promotion back to the top table.

"If you look at Crusaders' pre-season results, the European campaign and how they started this season, we know they are a top class outfit," he added.

"We knew it was going to be hard but we were well organised and I thought we were brilliant in what was a really good game.

"The result does give us confidence and it reiterates that we do belong in this league.

"You always have that self doubt until you have that really good first performance and we've had a few now.

"We know it's a long hard season but we are delighted with the start we have made."

Due to international call-ups, Loughgall will not be in Premiership action next weekend as their game against Larne has been postponed.

With the Villagers scheduled to play Valley Rangers in the first round of the Mid-Ulster Cup on Tuesday night, Smith insists he may use the contest to get a look at several members of his squad.

"To be honest, the game being postponed against Larne probably suits us as we have a few sore bodies in there and it will give them time to recover,” he continued.

"We want to win every match we play and Tuesday night against Valley Rangers will be no different and we will give the competition the respect it deserves.

"We will approach it the same way as we did against Crusaders.

"Of course, it will also give us a chance to give players minutes and an opportunity to run the eye over a few of the younger lads.”