Glentoran stretched their unbeaten run in the Danske Bank Premiership to 12 games with a 2-nil victory over Glenavon at the Bet McLean Oval this evening.
It was the same starting XI as last Saturday at Carrick but with a much strengthened bench; Plum and Bigirimana being included.
Once again the East Belfast Glens started brightly and a speculative, long range effort from Seanan Clucas almost caught out James Taylor in the visitors' goal with just 20 seconds on the clock, the ball going just wide of the post.
A quick throw in on 6 minutes caught the Glenavon defence napping and Jay Donnelly was unlucky to see his low drive deflected wide for a corner. From the set piece stand in skipper, Paddy McClean fired wide.
Glentoran deservedly went in front on 12 minutes. The excellent Rhys Marshall quickly closed down Peter Campbell in midfield and won the ball, finding Rory Donnelly. Rory found Jay Donnelly on the right and his low driven cross was turned in by Conor McMenamin from 6 yards past a helpless James Taylor. On 18 minutes a foul by Robert Garrett on Conor McMenamin presented the home side with another opportunity. Shay McCartan took the free kick but although his shot was on target, it was a comfortable save for the visiting keeper. The Glens were quickly on the attack again though and Andrew Doyle had to turn Conor McMenamin's low cross behind for a corner.
Just before the half hour mark a cross from the left presented a half chance for Andrew Waterworth but his header was well off target. Glenavon had another opportunity minutes later but striker, Matthew Fitzpatrick had his shot brilliantly blocked by 'Man of the Match' contender, Caolan Marron. Just when it seemed that the Lurgan side were coming into the game, Glentoran doubled their lead. Rhys Marshall drove down the right before cutting the ball inside to Rory Donnelly. Donnelly evaded a lunge from Daniel Wallace and found Jay Donnelly. His return pass was perfect and Rory drove the ball across Taylor and into the net via the far post.
Halftime: Glentoran 2-0 Glenavon
The second half was pretty uneventful with Glentoran creating some chances but failing to add to their two goal lead. Glenavon on the other hand were ineffective and Aaron McCarey in the Glentoran goal will rarely have had an easier 45 minutes. On 50 minutes Jay Donnelly's effort from Conor McMenamin's pass was deflected behind. A couple of minutes later Seanan Clucas tried his luck from around 25 yards but it was straight at the Glenavon keeper. On 72 minutes a through ball from Shay McCartan found substitute Robbie McDaid. McDaid's shot was on target but well saved by James Taylor.
On 77 minutes Jay and Rory linked up well before finding Rhys Marshall in the area. Marshall seemed to be taken down but the referee waved away the Glentoran penalty appeals. A minute later Shay McCartan was crudely taken down by Robbie Garrett. McCartan took the 30 yard free kick himself and his dipping and swerving shot saw Taylor havig to scramble the ball past the post for yet another Glentoran corner. At that stage the impressive McCartan was replaced by Hrvoje Plum and the Croatian took the set piece, finding Jay Donnelly who headed over the crossbar. Glenavon had one late opportunity but substitute Joshua Doyle was off target with his header.
All in all it was a comfortable win for Glentoran who have climbed above Cliftonville and sit joint top of the Danske Bank Premiership with cross-town rivals Linfield. Jay Donnelly may not have been on the scoresheet tonight but he did provide assists for the two goals. The back four were solid throughout with Caolan Marron perhaps the pick of the bunch whilst Joe Crowe and Seanan Clucas put in good performances in midfield. Next up is a trip to the Coleraine Showgrounds on Wednesday evening where we'll be looking to extend our unbeaten league run ahead of the holiday fixtures.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Marron, McClean (c), Burns, Crowe, Clucas, McCartan (Plum 80), McMenamin (McDaid 67), J. Donnelly & R. Donnelly (Cushnie 87)