Without ever hitting top gear, Irish Cup finalists Glentoran recorded a comfortable 2-0 over Dungannon Swifts at The Oval. Glentoran had beaten Dungannon in their three previous encounters during this campaign and today ended in similar fashion as the East Belfast side followed last week's Irish Cup semi-final victory with another win today. In blustery conditions at The Oval Glentoran got off to a good start. Jordan Stewart got on the end of a Kym Nelson ball over the top of the Dungannon defence. Stewart squared the ball to Curtis Allen who fired high and hard at the goal only to be well stopped by Andrew Coleman in the Dungannon net.
Allen was lively and linking up well with Stewart and again on the 7th minute tested the goalkeeper this time from distance. Allen created the chance himself shrugging off a tackle with a neat piece of skill before his placed shot was saved comfortably by Coleman. Allen's persistence paid off as he grabbed the opening goal on the 19th minute. Kym Nelson again was involved just like in last week's Allen goal, his initial cross was blocked but on second attempt he found Allen who shrugged off a tackle and placed the loose ball home into the bottom corner. That goal takes Allen to every striker's target of 20 for the year.
The opening goal seemed to spark Dungannon into life with Jamie Glackin impressing for the visitors with his pacey dribbling. Glackin beat Willie Garrett to the ball on the left hand side and drove inside on 22nd minute. He opened up his body but his shot for the far corner was well stopped by Elliott Morris. Morris was called into action again just a few minutes later as Jamie Douglas fired a 35 yard free-kick around the wall towards the Glentoran net. In the difficult wind and perhaps surprise of the choice to shoot, Morris made the save comfortably palming it clear however may feel he could have hung on.
Glentoran responded quickly as they tried to re-gain the early control they had on the game. Marcus Kane was next to link up with the impressive Nelson, Kym this time held up the ball well and Kane's shot from the edge of the area deflected and was saved. On 37th minute, Jamie Glackin for Dungannon again offered a threat. Kym Nelson made a mistake in keeping the ball in play when it was running out and Dungannon seized on the opportunity. Glackin picked up the ball 25 yards out but his well struck shot was always rising and cleared the crossbar out for a goal kick.
Glentoran then had a goal disallowed shortly before the half time whistle. Willie Garrett crossed a free kick from just inside the visitors half into the penalty area and Jordan Stewart leaped highest to head powerfully into the back of the net. Stewart was visably frustrated as the flag went up for offside but in truth the decision was probably justified by our international officials.
Dungannon came out full of life in the second half giving Glentoran their most difficult period of the game in the early stages. Once again it was Glackin's dribbling on the wing that caused problems as he wriggled free of a number of tackles before firing across goal. Morris palmed the ball clear before the rebound was driven back across goal. Marcus Kane was on hand to clear for a corner, narrowly avoiding the embarassment of an own goal.
From the resulting corner Dungannon passed up another glorious opportunity. Morris tried to claim the cross but spilt it to Fitzpatrick who lacked composure and fired over 8 yards out. On the 53rd minute the pressure continued on Glentoran's goal with another near own goal, this time Stephen McAlorum headed a low cross agonizingly wide of his own post.
Glentoran successfully weathered the storm and kicked on with the killer second goal soon after. Barry Holland, one of Glentoran's unsung heroes of the second half of the season deserves the credit with a fantastic right wing cross that cleared the Dungannon defence to back post. Vice captain McAlorum ran onto the brilliant ball and headed powerfully past Coleman into the net.
Dungannon offered one last threat on 60 minutes with a long ball clearing Garrett and Birney giving a one on one with Morris. Garrett thought about taking the man down and facing a certain red card but thankfully refrained as his goalkeeper came to the rescue with a smart save. That chance ended Dungannon's threat who rarely offered an opportunity from that point on. Glentoran saw out the game comfortably without being particularly entertaining. McAlorum controlled the midfield whilst defensively we showed similar composure which was so important in last week's victory.
Glentoran almost had the perfect finish with arguably the best move in the game coming on 88 minutes. Substitute Stephen Gordon fed Jordan Stewart whose skilful backheel gave David Scullion an opportunity to shoot on the edge of the box. Scullion met it cleanly on his left foot but Coleman pulled off a fantastic stop to keep Glentoran to two goals. Marcus Kane's workrate on the left was summed up in stoppage time as he charged down a Dungannon clearance which rebounded back on target forcing Coleman into one final save.
Victory for Glentoran keeps us 3 points behind Cliftonville but Portadown's draw today means they drop back into the mix for Europe, they are 3 clear of us too. Don't forget Glenavon though whose impressive victory over Linfield means they are only behind us on goal difference. There is plenty to play for as the NIPL enters the split stage of the season. With points sure to be dropped between Cliftonville, Portadown, Glentoran and Glenavon; Glentoran's final position is still very much to be decided. To make matters more exciting, a trip to Glenavon awaits The Glens next weekend too. There's also a certain game on 2nd May for us to look forward to as well.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell
Highlights on BBC Sport NI HERE
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Holland, Birney, Garrett, Kane, McAlorum, Nelson, Henderson, Stewart, McCaffery & Allen
Subs: Gordon for Nelson, Addis for Garrett & Scullion for McCaffery