Glentoran supporters were in need of a lift following a dismal run of results over the Christmas and New Year period and they got it tonight with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Ards in the Tennents Irish Cup, with Chris Lavery netting a hattrick in a 'Man of the Match' home debut.
The Glens hadn't recorded a victory for exactly a month; their last win coming against Cliftonville at the Oval on 19th December, and with a number of regulars missing the possibility of an upset was on the cards. Jonny Addis and Ciaran Caldwell were both serving 1-match suspensions whilst Elliott Morris and Curtis Allen both sat this one out with back problems. Marcus Kane was also missing due to illness so Barry Holland donned the captain's armband as Glentoran finally got their defence of the Irish Cup underway. Chris Morrow made his debut in midfield whilst Calum Birney returned to the starting line up along with Jonathan Smith.
In the opening minutes it was the visitors who looked more dangerous with Aaron Hogg having to come out quickly to deny Jordan Baker in the 2nd minute and then look on helplessly as David McCullough's header flew over the crossbar moments later. David Scullion, hero of the cup final back in May, had a chance in the 5th minute when the ball bounced kindly for him as he broke into the box but Denver Gage's last ditch tackle prevented Scullion getting a shot away. Steven Gordaon and Chris Lavery then combined well down the left with Lavery's low cross being met by Jonny Smith but the young striker couldn't keep his effort on target. Scullion went close on 12 minutes and then at the other end Steven McCullough did well to block Baker's shot. On 18 minutes Ards almost went in front. A cross from the left found Gary Dorrian unmarked in the area and the Glens were fortunate to see his shot whistle past the far post.
A minute later the deadlock was broken. As the Glens broke forward Steven McCullough went for goal from 25 yards. His effort was well saved by Ryan Brown but the ball fell kindly for Chris Lavery who prodded it home from just inside the 6-yard box. On 25 minutes Lavery got his and Glentoran's second. Steven Gordon did well to hold the ball up in the corner before clipping it between two defenders for Lavery. Lavery drove towards goal before drilling a low shot past Brown and inside the far post. Just after the half hour mark it could have been 3-nil. Glentoran took a quick free kick and Scullion found Jonny Smith on the edge of the box. He skipped past the defender but Ryan Brown got down quickly to smother Smith's effort. On 38 minutes Barry Holand combined well on the right with David Scullion. Unfortunately neither Smith or Lavery gambled and Scully's cross into the danger area flashed past the far upright. 5 minutes from the interval Holland made a great interception in midfield. He fed Fra McCaffrey but the Glentoran number 10 saw his 30 yard piledriver brilliantly tipped over the crossbar by Ryan Brown. On 44 minutes the home side conceded a soft corner. The ball was whipped into the area and Denver Gage managed to get on the end of it and head home from a couple of yards out. Were we about to see a repeat of last Saturday's pre half time collapse?
The Glentoran nerves were eased somewhat with less than a minute gone in the second half. Chris Lavery was again at the centre of things with his 25 yard shot being deflected for a corner. Lavery took the set piece himself and his inswnging cross was headed home by Jay Magee from close range. Moments later Lavery had another effort on goal but Brown turned it around the post. David McAllister for Ards and then Fra McCaffrey for Glentoran both had attempts off target before Glentoran substitute, Conor McMenamin, saw his ball into the danger area cleared for a corner. Again Lavery took it and his deep cross to the back post was headed onto the top of the bar. Just after the hour mark another break down the right saw Lavery get to the by-line and when his driven cross was palmed into the air by Brown in the Ards goal, McMenamin just failed to get on the end of it. On 64 minutes a through ball from the excellent Holland put Lavery away yet again. He skipped past a static Denver Gage but was unlucky to see his shot clip the top of the crossbar.
On 68 minutes a terrible tackle on Lavery by Kyle Buckley went unpunished by referee Dunlop. Indeed the official had earlier let go two other bad challenges, one from each side. This though was certainly worthy of more than the quiet word that followed! Jordan Baker stung the hands of Aaron Hogg on 73 minutes before substitute Ben Browne fed former Glens striker Aaron Boyd but Boyd's shot went well wide of Hogg's right hand post. In the final minute a superb cross field ball from Steven McCullough picked out Chris Lavery. Lavery skinned Kyle Buckley for the umpteenth time but couldn't keep his shot down. A minute into added time young Patrick Cafolla played in Lavery again with a sublime pass. Lavery slipped the ball past Brown but it came back off the post. Conor McMenamin, following up, saw his shot deflected for a corner. Stevie Gordon took a short corner to Lavery and he, once again, moved in on goal. It was a tight angle but such was the power in his drive, Ryan Brown in the visitor's goal had no chance.
Chris Lavery had the hattrick his performance deserved and he went home, not just with the match ball, but also the 'Man of the Match' award presented by THE STREAT.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Glentoran: Hogg, Holland (capt), McCullough, Birney, Magee, Morrow, Gordon, Scullion, Smith, McCaffrey & Lavery.
Subs: McMenamin for Scullion (55), Gibson for Morrow (75) and Cafolla for Smith (84). Unused: Henderson & Hamill.