Glentoran boss, Eddie Patterson, made just one change to the team which defeated Armagh City in the Irish Cup last Saturday; David Scullion coming into the starting eleven with Danny McKee dropping to the bench.
Glentoran started the game brightly and forced a corner in the opening minute. David Scullion swung it into the area and although keeper, Tim Allen spilled the ball the home defence was able to clear. United's Irish Cup hero from last weekend, David Cushley had the home side's first attempt on 3 minutes but his effort was well off target. A great cross field pass from Niall Henderson found Steven McCullough on the left but his wicked cross into the danger area eluded everyone. Another Scullion corner (8) was cleared to the edge of the area to Jordan Stewart but his shot was deflected and Allen was able to save comfortably.
Two goals in two minutes for Glentoran sent the travelling fans into raptures. On 11 minutes an elert Jordan Stewart took a quick throw in and sent Stephen McAlorum away down the left. His cross got a slight touch off Curtis Allen but Steven Gordon met it and headed home at the near post for his 7th goal of the season. Ballymena United restarted the game but almost immediately Glentoran won the ball back and it was played forward to David Scullion by Steven Gordon. From the edge of the area, Scullion chipped the ball over Tim Allen. The keeper got a slight touch on it but couldn't keep it out.
The home side responded with Cushley firing narrowly over from 25 yards out on 18 minutes but the game then got scrappy with neither side able to fashion any scoring opportunities. With 33 minutes on the clock former Glentoran striker, Darren Boyce got past Johnny Addis but his low drive was well saved by Glens' skipper, Elliott Morris. From the resulting corner Stephen McAlorum's sliced clearance almost ended up in his own goal but Henderson cleared the danger. At the other end a free kick to Glentoran was cleared to the edge of the area. McAlorum got on the end of it but his effort was straight at the keeper. 7 minutes from the break the home side missed a great opportunity to cut the lead to a single goal. Ballymena United took a short free kick and Tony Kane's effort was tipped over the bar by Morris. When the corner came in United's skipper, Allan Jenkins was unmarked but his close range header failed to hit the target. On 44 minutes though the goal that Ballymena United had been threatening finally arrived. Barry Holland didn't deal with a long ball forward and when it was played across by Stephen McBride, Tony Kane drilled it into the bottom corner from 16 yards out.
Both sides continued to press after the break. Allen got on the end of Stewart's cross for Glentoran but couldn't direct it goalwards. Darren Boyce had a similar opportunity at the other end but again his header was wide of the target. On 55 minutes Barry Holland made a great break down the right. Niall Henderson's perfect through ball put Holland in on goal but his angled shot was well kept out by Tim Allen. A minute later and Stephen McAlorum beat the offside trap and was left clear on goal with just Allen to beat. Unfortunately he let United off the hook, dragging his shot wide of the left hand post. Curtis Allen and David Scullion had chances for the Glens but both were kept out by the home back line. Midway through the second half David Cushley had a wonderful chance to level things up but his stinging shot was turned away for a corner by Morris. Curtis Allen then volleyed wide (70) and Eamonn McAllister went close for Ballymena United (73).
With just 5 minutes remaining Glentoran finally made the points safe. Substitute Fra McCaffrey won the ball on the left touchline just inside his own half. He found Steven Gordon who clipped the ball over the defence, putting Curtis Allen clear. As Allen raced into the penalty area he showed tremendous strength to hold off Johnny Taylor before firing the ball past Tim Allen to make it 3-1. Ballymena United had one last opportunity deep into injury time but Johnny Addis did really well to clear the danger.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell
Goals and reaction from Eddie Patterson on BBC Sport NI HERE
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Holland, McCullough, Addis, Birney, McAlorum, Henderson, Gordon, Scullion, Stewart & Allen.
Subs: McCaffrey for Henderson (75) and McKee for Scullion (88). Unused: Hogg, O'Hanlon & Calvert.