A 99th minute goal from Jay Donnelly gave the Glens a deserved opening day win at Mourneview Park this afternoon and let us take the opportunity to kill the ghost of last season against the team that did more than any other to deprive us of a sustained league challenge.
With Aaron Wightman recovering from an injury, Rhys Marshall stayed at right back, a switch that gave Cammy Palmer his first start for the club since moving from Linfield. Jay Donnelly was given the nod to start the season leading the line with Junior among the substitutes. Glenavon had former Glens players Rory Brown and Sean Ward in their starting lineup.
Glentoran got off to a strong start and nearly took the lead after four minutes. Rhys Marshall was sent clear by Palmer but his shot was well saved by Brown and the rebound cleared. Ten minutes later Daire O’Connor put in a great run and cross to Niall McGinn. McGinn’s shot was cleared off the line by a last gasp defender. McGinn had another good late run into the box shortly afterwards but was well tackled as he was poised to shoot.
On the half hour the Glens suffered a blow when Rhys Marshall limped off as the result of a challenge a few minutes earlier. He was replaced by Paddy McClean on his first appearance since January. Any questions about the attitude of Glens fans to Paddy’s return was immediately answered by the rapturous reception he received from all parts of the away stand. McClean slotted in at left back with James Singleton moving to the right.
Cammy Palmer was involved in the next Glens move. Having sent O’Connor away on the left, Palmer made a run into the box but his on target header was saved by Brown. In the goalmouth melee that followed Bobby Burns was booked. Thankfully the Glenavon defender involved survived after his somewhat theatrical fall.
Glentoran suffered two further bookings in the last minute of the half. First Jay Donnelly for blocking the 'keeper's kick, then manager Warren Feeney for kicking the ball back onto the pitch. However the match remained scoreless.
Half Time: Glenavon 0-0 Glentoran
Warren Feeney made a half time substitution and tactical change as Cammy Palmer – who had been very influential in his first game – was replaced by Junior as the Glens moved to a 4-4-2 formation with Junior partnering Donnelly in attack.
On 51 minutes came the first meaningful Glenavon chance of the game as Aaron McCarey saved well from Stephen Teggart. This was followed by another fine save from McCarey, this time from a well struck and on target free kick from Jack Malone. This in turn was followed by a rejected Glentoran penalty claim when Jay Donnelly appeared to be fouled by Sean Ward.
After the hour mark saw a period of sustained Glentoran pressure. First Junior hit the far post after a great pass from McGinn. Next Donnelly shot straight at the keeper.
Glentoran continued to dominate play but were finding it difficult to feed the two strikers. So with 14 minutes to go the manager introduced Shay McCartan and 17-year-old Rhys Walsh for the two wide men. Almost straight away, Walsh made a great left wing run and cross but Brown beat Junior to the ball.
Referee Davey signalled seven minutes of stoppage time as a result of injuries and time wasting, but even with three more minutes added to the seven, it looked like the Glens’ winner wasn’t going to come. Not until Shay McCartan opportunistically latched onto a drop ball to beat two defenders and strike a low, hard ball across the Glenavon goalmouth where Jay Donnelly was on hand to move more quickly than the packed defence to hit home his 65th goal for Glentoran and provoke scenes of jubilation both on the pitch and in the big crowd of Glens supporters. Immediately after this came a great move involving Jay and Rhys Walsh but it remained 0-1 until the whistle.
So a great end to a difficult game with the Glens emerging with full points in their first Sports Direct Premiership game of the season. Certainly it should send the players into Friday night’s home match with Larne in a very upbeat frame of mind.
Final Score : Glenavon 0-1 Glentoran
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall (McClean 30), Singleton, McCullough (c), Wilson, Sule, Burns (Kelly 89) , Palmer (Junior 46), McGinn (McCartan 76) , O’Connor (Walsh 76), J. Donnelly
Subs (Not used): Webber, Jenkins