Everywhere else it was St Valentine’s Day, but in East Belfast it was Burns’ Night as midfielder Bobby led the way with two goals and an assist in this very comfortable “Big Two” victory in the Danske Bank Premiership at the Bet McLean Oval.
The Glens showed just one change from Saturday’s draw at Coleraine with Conor McMenamin being given his first start since November and his serious injury.
Home team domination of the match started early with McMenamin very involved from the opening stages. First he broke through in the fourth minute but had his effort well saved by Chris Johns in the Linfield goal. Fifteen minutes later he was scythed down on the right flank by Matthew Clarke but no yellow card complemented the free kick. This was followed by a tempting low cross that wasn’t met by a team mate.
On the half hour Glentoran had a penalty claim denied when Jay Donnelly claimed to have been pushed over in the Blues’ area. Then the visitors had their first meaningful effort on Aaron McCarey’s goal when a strong long range effort from Kyle Lafferty was shot just wide.
The Glentoran breakthrough came on the 34th minute. After Shay McCartan and Jay Donnelly combined to win possession, Bobby Burns sent McCartan away. Shay then backheeled to Burns who hit an unstoppable drive past Johns and into the Blues’ net. Just like the away league game at the National Stadium in September, but no need for a deflection this time!
The only other meaningful action of the first half was a Michael Newberry effort headed wide from a corner kick.
Halftime: Glentoran 1-0 Linfield
The Glens started the second half with a lot of clear intent, and within three minutes of the restart deservedly extended their lead. This time Burns was the provider as he lobbed a ball deep into the far side of the Blues’ penalty area where it was met by the head of Aidan Wilson for the Glens’ second.
On 53 minutes Burns became the first player to be booked when he pulled Kirk Millar back, a merited yellow card but ironic in that four minutes earlier the Glens’ number six appeared to be kicked by Clarke while on the ground with no card brandished.
The game was over as a contest just after the hour with the Glens’ third, and again Burns was the home hero. McMenamin and Niall McGinn worked a clever short corner that finished with Conor Mac’s cross to the far post. Wilson was again there to meet it but this time he headed back for Burns to make no mistake with his first time shot.
The Glens’ third goal led directly to the less savoury events of the evening as first Aaron McCarey then skipper Marcus Kane were struck by objects thrown from within the Linfield support on the City End terrace. Despite interventions from referee Jamie Robinson then – instructed by the referee – Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew, this ugly behaviour continued unabated for the rest of the game.
By this point Glentoran were very comfortable in their lead and Conor McMenamin – his performance totally making a mockery of his three month absence from the team – had a snapshot denied by a great save by Chris Johns. He also had another great run and effort on 85 minutes.
While Burns’ performance and McMenamin’s successful return will justifiably make the headlines, a special word of praise is merited for Terry Devlin’s dominant performance in central midfield. This typical performance was incredible for a 19-year old in his first season at the club.
So a great win by Glentoran and although we remain in sixth place with three games in hand over four of the teams above us and two in hand over leaders Larne, the team sent out a powerful statement this evening, having taken 13 points from 15 in a month under Rodney McAree.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Kane (c), McCullough, Wilson, Burns (Singleton 71), Devlin, McCartan (Plum 83), J. Donnelly, McGinn (R. Donnelly 83) & McMenamin