Glentoran capitalised on Monday’s win at Mourneview Park with another good three points as they defeated Ballymena United by two goals to nil at the Oval this afternoon. Goals from Johnny Smith and Ciaran Caldwell saw the Glens safely to consecutive victories for the first time in 2016. Alan Kernaghan unsurprisingly named an unchanged 11 for the home side who were looking to avoid defeat against a Ballymena side who traditionally have a good record at the Oval, winning 5 and losing just two of their last 8 league visits to East Belfast.
Before the game both sides gave a guard of honour to Glentoran goalkeeper Elliott Morris. Elliott reached an incredible 600 games for Glentoran on Monday night and the occasion was marked with a presentation from Chairman, Stephen Henderson. The game itself started slowly with both sides struggling to cope with the bitterly cold, blustery conditions early on. Glentoran then sparked into life after 5 minutes when Johnny Smith latched onto a good ball which held up in the wind but his 18 yard drive flashed over the crossbar. Just three minutes later Glentoran were in front with Smith again at the heart of the action. It appeared that the young frontman narrowly beat Jim Ervin to a loose ball in the penalty area and as both players collided the linesman instructed Mr Hetherington to award a penalty. Smith made sure he grabbed the ball, placed it on the spot and calmly sent Alan Blayney the wrong way. 1-0 Glentoran.
The home side continued to press, using the prevailing wind well to hang crosses up, making things difficult for the visiting centre backs. Smith shot wide after a super flick from Curtis Allen and shortly after the quarter hour mark Blayney misjudged a cross in the wind and whilst leaning over Smith his punch could only find Ciaran Caldwell whose shot was well blocked as a number of yellow shirts raced to cover. With 20 minutes gone and Glentoran well on top it felt like the home side had to score a second whilst they were dominating. The Glens left flank had looked dangerous early on and it was from there that the second goal arrived following a neat piece of play involving 4 or 5 players. Chris Lavery showed great skill to beat Tony Kane and Gavin Taggart, his pass found Caldwell and Ciaran showed presence of mind to use the runs of Allen and Smith as decoys, he then eased past Ervin and drove an excellent shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
Ballymena then responded well, winger Leroy Miller had their first attempt on goal, turning neatly on the corner of the penalty area before curling an effort over Morris’ goal. 60 seconds later Morris was called upon to deny former Glentoran striker Darren Henderson. Alan Jenkins hooked the ball over his own head to find Henderson, he used his strength to fight off Barry Holland but Morris was out quickly to block. The game settled down after half an hour with the ball rarely entering either goalmouth. In the 15 minutes before halftime Jay Magee headed wide with a great chance from a Chris Lavery corner and Curtis Allen tested Blayney with another low driven effort from long range. Glentoran deserved led at the interval after a 45 minutes which they dominated.
Halftime Glentoran 2-0 Ballymena United.
At the break Chris Morrow replaced Stevie Gordon in the heart of midfield for Glentoran. United manager Glenn Ferguson will no doubt have been disappointed with his side in the first half but they came out firing in the second, attacking from the off. A low Jonny Frazer cross eluded Henderson and despite a Birney miskick, Morris gathered. Matthew Tipton and William Faulkner were then introduced for the visitors and they began to cause the home side problems immediately. Tipton won a free kick 30 yards out but Morris was equal to the low shot from set piece specialist Tony Kane. He was tested again shortly after when former Ards man Faulkner cut inside from the left and stung the Glentoran keeper’s palms with a powerful effort. The visitors continued to press with Glentoran struggling to mount any serious attack, coping less well with the strong wind at their backs. With 20 minutes to go Frazer fired a testing cross but Jay Magee dealt with it well, heading over his own crossbar.
Glentoran then gained a foothold and went close on several occasions, Jonny Smith had the ball in the net after excellent passing from Addis and Scullion but he was narrowly offside. That man Smith was involved again two minutes later and probably should have grabbed his second, Curtis Allen clipped a Morrow pass over Blayney, Smith latched onto the ball and headed against the post before a combination of McVey and Ervin hacked the ball away. Glentoran then turned attack into defence when a giveaway on the counter left them short at the back, the lively Frazer outpaced McCullough and cut the ball back for Faulkner who blazed over from a great position. From that point the game petered out somewhat, with Frazer wasting Ballymena’s final chance of the day, attempting a scissor style volley and missing the ball. Curtis Allen will be disappointed not to have notched his 17th goal of the season late on, as he was robbed by an Eoin Kane tackle and then headed over from 6 yards out. Full time Glentoran 2-0 Ballymena United.
All in all a deserved win for Glentoran who hit the front during a dominant first half and defended well as Ballymena took the game to them in the second 45. Next up is a trip to Ferney Park Ballinamallard, a venue that played host to possibly the performance of the season from the Glens when the Mallards were defeated 4-2 in December.
Glentoran: Morris, Holland (capt), Birney, Magee, McCullough, Addis, Gordon (Morrow 45), Lavery (Patton 90), Caldwell (Scullion 66), Allen & Smith. Subs not used Hogg & Gibson.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.