It was a very different looking Glentoran side which stepped onto the Oval pitch this afternoon. With at least 7 players missing through injury or suspension manager Eddie Patterson was down to the bare bones. Barry Holland came back into the side at right back with Steven McCullough occupying the other full back position. Willie Garrett, missing through injury since mid-October, returned to partner Johnny Addis in the centre of the defence whilst we'd a youthful midfield of Jordan Stewart, Kym Nelson, Marcus Kane and Steven Gordon alongside the exerienced David Scullion. Curtis Allen, who'd scored against the Mallards in his previous three games against them, led the line once again.
On the bench alongside Aaron Hogg and Danny McKee were Colin Smith, Sandy McDermott and 15-year old Karl Hamill. At the other end of the scale skipper Elliott Morris was making his 556th appearance for Glentoran; moving ahead of Billy McCullough and into third place in the all-time appearances list behind Colin Nixon and Paul Leeman.
Glentoran got their first sight of goal 3 minutes into the game. Marcus Kane fed Curtis Allen and although his 30 yard volley was blocked, the ball fell to Jordan Stewart who rifled his shot just past the post. Barry Holland then created a half chance for Marcus Kane but his right foot shot was off target. The visitors struggled to create any clear cut chances and in the first quarter of an hour were restricted to a couple of corner kicks which came to nothing. A long ball from Willie Garrett seemed to have released Curtis Allen but he was pulled back on the corner of the penalty area. He took the free kick himself but it deflected off the wall and went for a corner. Steven McCullough swung the corner kick into the 6-yard box. It wasn't dealt with by the Mallards' defence and Steven Gordon poked the ball home. On 18 minutes it should have been 2-nil. Another long ball from Garrett caused confusion in the visitors' back line and a last ditch clearance from Mark Stafford denied Curtis Allen. On 25 minutes Allen intercepted a back pass. He tried to round the keeper but went down under the challenge. David Scullion picked up the loose ball and, despite the tight angle, should have scored but Mallards' skipper Stafford again came to the rescue.
Just before the half hour mark a beautifully floated ball from Kym Nelson sent Curtis Allen clear again. Allen struck the ball past Stefan McCusker in the visitors goal but the ball hit the crossbar. It was 2-nil however on 37 minutes. Jordan Stewart linked well with Kym Nelson and the big midfielder played the ball through to Allen on the edge of the penalty area. A superb turn left Stafford floundering and Allen's driven ball into the danger zone was finished off by Steven Gordon. 5 minutes from the break a free kick from Johnny Lafferty was just wide of the far post and a minute later Gordon almost grabbed his hattrick, getting his head on a cross from David Scullion and pulling a good save out of keeper McCusker.
The first opportunity after the interval fell to the visitors but Lafferty was well wide with his effort. Marcus Kane then had a header from a corner saved by the Mallards' keeper before Jordan Stewart's shot from the edge of the area was blocked. Stewart then linked well with McCullough down the left. The full back's cross found Nelson but he miscued his shot. On 66 minutes Raymond Foy's excellent through ball put Jason McCartney in but Elliott Morris was quickly off his line to make a fine save. Just 3 minutes after coming on for Jordan Stewart, substitute Danny McKee brought another save out of McCusker, the Mallards' keeper getting down quickly to deny the Glentoran teenager. A minute later though it was 3-nil. An excellent pass from Kym Nelson found Curtis Allen in the area. Allen controlled the ball with his right foot before firing it past the helpless keeper with his left. Eddie Patterson then took the opportunity to give Sandy McDermott and Colin Smith a taste of first team action. With 7 minutes remaining a 20-yard effort from Ryan Campbell brought a gereat save out of Elliott Morris. The ball fell to Liam Martin but Morris again produced a top class save to thwart him. On 87 minutes an excellent ball from Sandy McDermott picked out Steve Gordon at the back post. Gordon, looking for his hattrick, struck the ball cleanly but it came back off the upright and was cleared upfield. As we entered stoppage time a superb strike from Jake Dykes looked destined for the top corner but Morris, at full stretch, tipped the ball over the crossbar. The Glentoran skipper was denied a clean sheet though as, from the resulting corner, David Kee glanced a header in at an unguarded near post.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Highlights on BBC Sport NI HERE
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Holland, McCullough, Addis, Garrett, Nelson, Gordon, Kane, Stewart, Scullion & Allen.
Subs: McKee for Stewart (70), McDermott for Kane (76) and Smith for McCullough (88). Unused Hamill & Hogg.