Match highlights courtesy of GLENS TV HERE
2016 hasn't got off to the best start for Alan Kernaghan and his Glentoran side, losing 6 out of our last 8 games in all competitions. Last Saturday's Irish Cup defence ended in a 4-1 defeat to tonight's opponents which saw our defence leak at least 3 goals for the 3rd time in our last 4 games. Needless to say Glentoran and in particular our defence needed a big performance this evening. Kernaghan's side saw Stephen McCullough return to the team in a more natural position at left back for Marcus Kane who was unavailable. Jonny Addis played in front of the back four with Chris Morrow dropping to the bench to be replaced by Ciaran Caldwell. Jonathan Smith partnered Curtis Allen up front with Chris Lavery on the left. Elliott Morris returned in goal for his 600th appearance as Aaron Hogg dropped to the bench.
Glentoran started the game tentatively as the lack of confidence and nerves was clear to see. For the opening 10 minutes Glentoran barely touched the ball and were unable to retain any possession. Glenavon had the ball but did not particularly test Morris with shots on his goal. Morris was visably still struggling from injury woes he has had in recent months and had to be alert on a couple of occasions to punch deep crosses from Glenavon wingers Joel Cooper and Andy Hall to safety.
It took until the 19th minute for Glentoran to start to settle in the game and start to force play. Good pressure from Glentoran's forwards put the Glenavon backline under pressure forcing a mistake which gave Chris Lavery the chance to round Glenavon goalkeeer Jonathan Tuffey. Lavery took it around the former Linfield keeper but his effort despite being on target was headed clear off the line. Glentoran had come to life though. On 23rd minute the change of flow of the game showed as Glentoran took a deserved lead. Jonny Addis was quick to think from a free kick playing a short pass through the Glenavon defence to Curtis Allen who was alert to the opportunity. Allen turned well and closed in on goal. Curtis surely could have had no difficulty visualising his finish with the position and angle similar to goals he scored against Crusaders in the Irish Cup Semi Final last year at Mourneville and the debut goal he scored for Glentoran on the same ground. Allen delivered again finishing brilliantly into the far corner. 1-0 Glentoran.
Glentoran's goal seemed to kill all Glenavon's early pressure and in truth the first half wasn't a great contest. Glenavon continued to apply pressure but Glentoran's defence was showing a robustness unseen in 2016 so far as Calum Birney and Jay Magee's confidence started to grow. Jonny Smith had a half chance for Glentoran on 37th minute flicking a header from a Ciaran Caldwell cross into the gloves of Tuffey. Half time 1-0 Glentoran.
Glenavon started the second half the better side, forcing more crosses and pressure into the Glentoran box. A Joel Cooper corner fell loose in the box but good defending from Calum Birney saw Glentoran survive. The pressure told in the end though as on 55th minute Joel Cooper's corner delivery again was good and Glenavon won the header. Kevin Braniff on the six yard box swivelled and volleyed home past the helpless Morris. 1-1.
Glentoran have struggled this season from similar positions where despite good play, a goal has shattered confidence and led to a collapse but tonight Glentoran were made of much sterner stuff. From the moment Glenavon equalised Glentoran kicked into a new gear. Jonathan Smith wasn't at his best in the first half but an off the ball incident where he seemed to nudge into a Glenavon player sparked a bit of a heated discussion amongst players of both sides and seemed to inspire Smith to what would be an excellent final half hour performance. Chris Lavery went close first on 59th minute. Good pressure from Smith led Kris Lindsay to a poor backpass header which Lavery read easily. His shot however soared over the bar. A good opportunity missed. Next it was Smith who got on the end of a Ciaran Caldwell pass but Tuffey made himself big and denied the Glentoran youngster.
Smith again was at the centre of action on 64th minute. He evaded a tackle in the Glenavon box and from a tight angle shot at Tuffey who was alert at his front post. Just a minute later a long throw from Jonny Addis caused confusion in the Glenavon box with Glentoran's centre backs nearly combining for an unlikely goal as Jay Magee headed down to Calum Birney who shot at goal from 9 yards out. Sadly despite Jay's good knock down he couldn't get out of the way as his partner's strike hit him on the way to goal, deflecting clear.
The second goal was coming for Glentoran and Curtis Allen again supplied it with a sublime goal. Chris Morrow played an excellent ball over the top of the Glenavon defence but Allen was a long way from goal still. He headed the ball positively towards goal away from Kris Lindsay before skilfully rounding a second Glenavon defender. On his favoured left side he placed the ball in the corner from the edge of the box with a delightful, composed finish sending Glentoran into a 2-1 lead.
Glenavon's big moment fell to Joel Cooper on 74th minute as he broke clean through with just Elliott Morris to beat after Barry Holland's offside trap attempt failed. Cooper scuffed his effort to the back post and Calum Birney was able to clear for a corner. A huge let off for Glentoran.
Gary Hamilton threw himself on as Glenavon went to a 3-4-3 formation to grab an equaliser. In truth it played into Glentoran's hands who looked dangerous on the counter attack and could have scored a few more goals had their decision making been better. Jonny Smith continued to cause problems breaking away from Conor Dillon and Glentoran amazingly had a 5v1 breakaway only for Chris Lavery's pass to pick out the 1 instead any of our 5! On 82nd minute Curtis Allen had a half chance in the box for his hattrick but he didn't connect cleanly to get the effort on goal.
As the game entered stoppage time Glentoran came forward again. Stephen McCullough chipped the ball forward and Ciaran Caldwell nodded on to Jonathan Smith who broke the offside line. Smith through on goal was composed and wrapped up the victory placing well past Tuffey for a 3-1 lead. The goal meant a lot to players, staff and fans alike with Ciaran Caldwell and Barry Holland celebrating in front of the Glentoran stand.
There was more to come as Smith danced into the box and was taken down by Andy Kilmartin for a late penalty. Curtis Allen's excellent performance was deserving of a match ball and he stepped up for his chance. However Allen blazed too high straight down the middle catching the top of the crossbar before heading over.
It did not matter though as Glentoran secured a huge victory. A fist clench to the Glentoran fans at the end from Alan Kernaghan told of what it meant to him and his team. An excellent performance.
Glentoran: Morris, Holland (capt), Magee, Birney, Addis, Caldwell, Gordon, Lavery, Smith & Allen
Subs: Morrow for Gordon (45)
Photographs by Thomas Sewell