Glentoran continued their amazing away form in Lurgan on Tuesday night as goals from Curtis Allen, Marcus Kane and Jay Magee saw Eddie Patterson's men defeat 10-man Glenavon at Mourneview Park.
Patterson opted not to change a winning team from Saturday's excellent win over Portadown in the Irish Cup with the exception of Elliott Morris, who had picked up a slight knock, being replaced by Aaron Hogg with Stephen McAlorum captaining the east Belfast outfit. The early stages belonged to Glenavon as they seemed to be coping better and their slightly more physical approach suited the atrocious pitch that the game was taking place on after heavy rain for a couple of days. The first real opportunity fell to Winky Murphy as the veteran defender rose highest in the box. His header cannoned off of Calum Birney and as blue shirts swung for the ball the excellent Calum Birney hacked clear.
A couple of Jordan Stewart free-kicks didn't trouble Andy Coleman in the Glenavon goal but on 19 minutes new signing Allen got his third goal in two games with a magnificent finish. McAlorum threaded the ball through to the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle frontman and, after taking a touch to settle himself, the Glens' number 40 expertly smashed a bouncing ball into the far corner of the net. It was truly a sumptuous finish and the sort of strike that Glenmen have been craving to see all year from a forward. Just two minutes later and Allen's strike partner Aaron Boyd should've made it 2-0 after racing through on goal with just the 'keeper to beat but unfortunately the ex-Lisburn Distillery striker poked his effort wide of the upright.
Glenavon came back in search of an equaliser as Murphy, Brian McCaul and Guy Bates all had efforts saved excellently by the impressive Hogg before Jordan Stewart beat a couple of players and smashed a fizzing effort inches over the bar. The same man was put through on goal as a lovely move saw Marcus Kane find the teenager's fantastic run. Stewart had plenty of time and acres of space, opting to lift it over the onrushing Coleman. The Glenavon shot-stopper palmed his effort wide however he was well outside of his box and the referee had no hesitation in issuing the marching orders with former Linfield midfielder and debutant McCaul donning the gloves as the Lurgan Blues had no recognised goalkeeper on the bench. With 40 minutes on the clock Andy McCrory forced another acrobatic save from Hogg and the heavens opened, only for the referee to blow his whistle for half-time.
McAlorum was replaced by Jay Magee during the interval with utility man Jonny Addis moving into central midfield and Magee partnering Birney in the heart of the Glens' defence. It was a relatively quiet start to the second period but 11 minutes in Allen should've doubled his tally as he met Jason Hill's cross with a diving header that flew wide of McCaul's right-hand post. Just a minute later and Gareth McKeown nearly scored an incredible goal as his 35-yard free kick was smashed just wide of Hogg's goal. Glenavon drew level on the hour mark as former Glenman Kyle Neill thundered a 25-yard free kick into the bottom corner to give Hogg no chance. However, just a minute later and Glentoran were back in front. A strong run from Jordan Stewart found Niall Henderson. The midfielder slipped in the overlapping Willie Garrett and the right-back found Kane who volleyed home via McCaul and the post.
Hogg continued his heroics as he bravely threw himself at a 50-50 with Ciaran Martyn, before Jay Magee extended the away side's lead on 69 minutes as he headed home from a Stewart corner. This seemed to spark the home side into life though, because they were all over the Glens from this point on. A couple of minutes after the goal, a 6-yard box scramble saw the ball stick in the heavy muck and was hoofed clear at the last minute, before Guy Bates reduced the defecit with a close range finish only to have it ruled out for offside. Free-flowing football was left wanting as the horrendous footing saw players slip and the ball stick on a regular basis, but Glenavon came within inches of making it 3-2 on 79 minutes as the backtracking Hogg tipped a looping header onto the crossbar. Soon after they did get the ball in the net though, with Bates breaking clear and finding new signing Tiarnan Mulvenna to bundle home.
With just 6 minutes left Bates fired a free-kick in a dangerous position well over the bar, before Hogg performed more heroics with another superb smother at the strikers' feet. Glenavon continued to pile on the pressure and Mulvenna almost equalised right at the death only to fire well wide. In the end though some smashing defending from the back four saw the Glens head back to Belfast with an important 3 points won in very difficult conditions. The east Belfast outfit are now just 3 points behind Crusaders in 3rd with the next test coming at home to Coleraine on Saturday. See you all there.
Highlights on BBC SportNI HERE
Glentoran: Hogg, Garrett, Hill, Birney, Addis, McAlorum (capt), Henderson, Kane, Stewart, Boyd & Allen.
Subs: Magee for McAlorum (46) and McGuigan for Hill (75). Unused: Morris, Bradley & R. Clarke.