Glentoran recorded their fourth win on the bounce today and in doing so climbed to 3rd place in the early season Danske Bank Premiership table.
Manager Mick McDermott kept the same starting XI that saw off Institute live on SKY Sports during the week and the team were quickly on the front foot with Robbie McDaid having the first effort on goal with just 3 minutes gone.
Larne's first attack saw Sean Graham going for goal from around 20 yards but Marijan Antolovic reacted well and acrobatically tipped the ball over the crossbar. His compatriot, Hrvoje Plum then went close at the other end, his 30 yard strike only being gathered by Conor Mitchell in the visitors' goal at the second attempt.
Great link up play by Pepper, Plum and Herron created a chance for Paul O'Neill but the young striker unfortunately fired over. With 18 minutes gone Robbie McDaid once again got the better of Albert Watson and the veteran defender was forced to concede a free kick, picking up a yellow card in the process. Hrvoje Plum lined up the free-kick just outside the left corner of the 18-yard box. Having scored superb free-kicks against both Coleraine and Institute he couldn't do it again...could he? Plum's shot was both powerful and accurate but this time Mitchell managed to get a hand to it and tip it over the bar.
On the half hour mark Watson and McDaid clashed again and once again McDaid won the free-kick. Hrvoje Plum stepped up again and fired the ball towards the back post but Mitchell gathered quite comfortably.
Glentoran were on top but fell behind on 34 minutes. A ball played to the edge of the penalty area was headed clear by Connor Pepper and for most people in the ground he should have been awarded a free kick with a high Larne boot almost catching him on the head. Instead referee Andrews ignored it and the ball fell to Larne skipper Jeff Hughes who drilled it goalward. It looked like the ball moved in the air and although Marijan Antolovic got a hand to it he couldn't keep it out and Larne were in front.
Glentoran found a deserved equaliser on 39 minutes. Marcus Kane did really well to intercept the ball when the visitors looked like breaking away again. Kane's cross was headed by a visiting defender but fell to Elvio Van Overbeek on the right side of the penalty area. The Dutchman's cross just eluded Robbie McDaid but did pick out Paul O'Neill who controlled it well before calmly slotting it past Mitchell for his 3rd goal of the season.
The Glens might have gone in with a halftime lead but John Herron's header from a Plum free-kick went wide.
Halftime: Glentoran 1-1 Larne.
Early in the second period the Glens thought they should have been awarded a penalty when John Herron, striving to get on the end of Connor Pepper's cross, appeared to be tugged back at the vital moment but referee Shane Andrews waved away the appeals. Larne substitute, Martin Donnelly then saw his shot turned away for a corner by Marijan Antolovic. Defender Shane McEleney had a decent chance for Larne on 57 minutes but fired well off target from a good position.
The decisive goal came in the 74th minute and it was the home side who got it. A long throw-in from Connor Pepper was fluffed by the Larne keeper who came to punch but failed to make a connection with the ball. As it dropped, Marcus Kane was on hand to hook it into the unguarded net to send the Sydenham End into raptures.
Larne strived for an equaliser but although under pressure in the dying stages, the Glentoran defence stood firm with both Patrick McClean and Gavin Peers in particular keeping the visitors at bay.
So an encouraging third consecutive win in the Danske Bank Premiership which will boost confidence prior to a visit to the National Stadium to take on rivals Linfield next Saturday.
Before that though we have Ballyclare Comrades visiting the Oval on Tuesday evening for a Co. Antrim Shield tie.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Antolovic, Pepper, Kane (c), Peers, McClean, Plum, Crowe, Herron (Gordon 81), Van Overbeek (Frazer 64), O'Neill (Murray71) & McDaid