Glentoran had to come from behind at the Ballymena Showgrounds this evening in the Danske Bank Premiership but a goal from Jay Donnelly just before the interval and two from his brother Rory early in the second half saw the side return to East Belfast with all 3 points.
With the in-form Bobby Burns serving a one match suspension, James Singleton was drafted into the starting XI for the game. Rory Donnelly was also in the team, replacing Niall McGinn who had a slight calf injury. There were just 3 minutes on the clock when Shay McCartan found Conor McMenamin on the right. His dangerous cross just eluded Jay Donnelly in the 6-yard box though. Rory Donnelly then worked space on the left but his ball into the box was only cleared as far as skipper Marcus Kane. Kane's cross was turned behind for a corner from which Shay McCartan found the head of Jay Donnelly but his effort was cleared off the goal line and then hacked away. Jay Donnelly had another half chance on 19 minutes but his low drive was wide of the post.
Despite those early chances it was a very lacklustre Glentoran for most of the opening half; so different from Tuesday night's excellent victory over Linfield. With 21 minutes played the home side should really have taken the lead. A cross from the left was met by Sean Graham but Aaron McCarey produced an outstanding save to keep out the Sky Blues' striker's header. On 28 minutes Glentoran were awarded a free kick when the excellent Terry Devlin was fouled around 25 yards from goal. Shay McCartan took the set piece but his effort was blocked by the Ballymena United defensive wall. The ball was cleared to the halfway line but a poor first touch from Aidan Wilson allowed Sean Graham to gain possession. He raced forward and from around 15 yards out, he slotted the ball through the legs of Luke McCullough, across Aaron McCarey and into the corner of the net.
The Glens had a great chance to draw level on 31 minutes when Terry Devlin set up a great chance for Shay McCartan but the former Ballymena Utd player blasted over from close range. A foul on Shay McCartan gave the Glens another opportunity to get the ball into the penalty area. Conor McMenamin fired it in but Rory Donnelly headed wide of the target. The equaliser did arrive just before halftime though. Conor McMenamin's pass found Marcus Kane and he in turn fed the ball to Rory Donnelly. His cross from the left might have been cut out but Ross Redman missed his chance to clear and Jay Donnelly smashed the ball into the net from close range. It was "The Striker's" 60th goal for Glentoran.
Halftime: Ballymena Utd 1-1 Glentoran
Marcus Kane conceded a free kick near the corner flag early in the second half. Ross Redman swung the ball into the box but Luke McCullough, who had an excellent game in very difficult conditions, headed clear. A foul on Shay McCartan right on the edge of the area was fired toward goal by Glentoran's number 7. Jordan Williamson in the home goal punched it away but the ball eventually reached Conor McMenamin on the right wing. He cut inside Graham before firing a deep cross just beyond the back post. It looked like the ball might go out of play but Aidan Wilson knocked it back into the 6-yard box and Rory Donnelly made no mistake, firing past Williamson to put the Glens in front.
A little over 2 minutes later and Rory Donnelly netted his second and Glentoran's third to give the East Belfast side a cushion. Conor McMenamin played a free kick into the box and Marcus Kane got in front of two United defenders to poke the ball to Rory Donnelly. Just 6 yards from goal, Rory calmly slotted the ball under Williamson to make it 3-1.
Rodney McAree used all 5 available substitutes as Glentoran saw the game out reasonably comfortably. There were a few other late opportunities to increase the advantage. Hrvoje Plum's powerful 30-yard free kick brought a fine save out of Williamson and Danny Purkis was unlucky to see his 'goal' ruled out for offside.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Kane (c) (Crowe 81), McCullough, Wilson, Singleton, Devlin, McCartan (Plum 71), R. Donnelly (Junior 71), J. Donnelly (Purkis 81) & McMenamin (Wightman 71)