Glentoran produced what can only be described as their best showing of the season thus far at the Oval yesterday as four goals in 24 second half minutes put Ballymena United, traditionally a bogey side for the Glens at home, to the sword.
From the off the home team, playing in a special kit to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Vienna Cup triumph, piled on the pressure. Three early corners came to nothing before Curtis Allen's poor first touch let him down when through on goal, and then the number nine slammed a stunning shot from 30 yards off the crossbar. However, it wasn't all plain sailing as on 19 minutes a United cross found Allan Jenkins, who's deft touch seemed destined for the back of the net only for Jay Magee's right boot sending the ball over the bar. 5 minutes later and Jordan Stewart curled a 20 yard strike inches wide of the upright, before moments after Allen found the brilliant winger inside the six yard box and only a stunning Dwayne Nelson stop prevented the deadlock being broken.
32 minutes into the first half and Jim O'Hanlon, another player who had an excellent game, pulled a chance wide from 12 yards after a Glentoran corner wasn't cleared by the Sky Blues' defence, and then just shy of the half-time whistle Stewart found Allen on the corner of the Ballymena box and the ex-Coleraine talisman bent a beautiful effort towards the bottom corner only for Nelson to yet again thwart the Glens.
The east Belfast outift had totally dominated their opponents in the opening forty five as the team seemed intent on providing the fans with a reaction following Tuesday night's truly dismal performance in the County Antrim Shield against Bangor, but unfortunately Eddie Pattersons' men were continuously prefented from opening the scoring by the outstanding Nelson. However, the hard work and perserverance would come good in the second half.
Allen, who looked lively and should've probably had a hat-trick given the chances that fell his way, fired two acute efforts over the bar when perhaps another option would've been better, before Matthew Tipton headed wide when well placed to remind the Glens that if they didn't start taking their chances then United, who were on the back foot for pretty much the entire game, could snatch a result. Indeed, the former Blueman came even closer on 59 minutes as David Cushley cut the Glens defence wide open and Tipton's effort was hacked off the line by a retreating Magee.
This seemed to be the wake-up call that the home side needed as the goal finally arrived on 66 minutes. Elliott Morris, making his 550th appearance for Glentoran, hoofed a hopeful ball forward that seemed destined to roll harmlessly out for a goal kick. A United defender was there to see it out but Stewart showed incredible tenacity and pace to eat up the ground, slide round and stop the ball before it crossed the line, get back up and pick out Steven Gordon in the middle. His shot was scuffed into the path of O'Hanlon who struck home to great celebrations in the ranks of the home supporters. The Glens almost scored straight from kick-off as Allen skied his angled effort in the box but the forward finally got the goal he deserved on 70 minutes as Niall Henderson found the poacher in the box who controlled instantly and cheekily flicked the ball into the bottom corner.
With three minutes left substitute Fra McCaffery sent O'Hanlon free down the right and the skilful winger found Man of The Match Stewart in the middle for a simple tap in. 3-0 and game, set and match but Glentoran were not finished there as they saved the best until last. In stoppage time Jonny Addis won the ball inside his own half and spread it wide to Stewart who brilliantly dummied and let it run to Allen. Allen played it forward to Stewart, Stewart threaded McCaffery through and the number four swivelled to cut it back. The ball fell to Stewart and the number 11 beat a man before smashing an effort into the bottom corner. Surely a contender for goal of the season as 4 players, 4 passes and 11 touches saw the ball travel from inside the Glentoran half to the back of the Ballymena net in one flowing move.
Next up is another home game against Glenavon on Saturday 8th November, kick off is at 3pm. Please note that the following league match against Linfield at Windsor Park is ALL TICKET. Glentoran fans will be housed in the Kop Stand for this fixture and tickets are on sale now, £10 for adults and £7 for concessions.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Henderson, Addis, Magee, Holland, McAlorum, Gordon, Nelson, O'Hanlon, Stewart & Allen.
Subs: McCaffrey & McKee