Glentoran returned to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a comfortable 4-nil win over Glenavon at the Oval, our first home win against the Lurgan Blues since November 2015!
The Glens had the regular back four in place with Joe Crowe coming into the midfield in place of the injured Hrvoje Plum, Jonny Frazer getting a deserved start and top scorer Robbie McDaid returning from suspension. Recent squad additions, Mitchell and Marron were unavailable as part of the recent deal; Calum Birney also sitting this one out for the visitors. It was also great to have Curtis Allen available again and named amongst the substitutes.
The opening 20 minutes was a tame affair with Glenavon, attacking the Sydenham End with a strong wind at their backs, creating most of the opportunities. Sammy Clingan was allowed to carry the ball from deep inside his own half before setting up a chance for Daniel Purkis who brought a decent save out of Marijan Antolovic. Purkis then tried a chip shot from around 30 yards but it drifted well wide of the post. A poor defensive clearance by the home side then presented James Singleton with a decent opportunity but he was unable to take advantage.
On 21 minutes Glentoran edged in front. Marcus Kane hooked the ball forward to Jonny Frazer on the edge of the area. Frazer's flick on looked to be dropping nicely for Jonathan Tuffey to clear however a mix up between Tuffey and Andrew Doyle presented the easiest of chances to Paul O'Neill and his finish was Stevie Gordonesque.
3 minutes later a foul on Robbie McDaid near the left corner of the 18-yard box gave the Glens another scoring opportunity. Navid Nasseri stepped up but fired his 20 yard effort just over. Nasseri then bamboozled the Glenavon defence, skipping past a number of players before just losing control at the last minute allowing Tuffey to gather. Joe Crowe, who had an excellent game in midfield, went close for the East Belfast side whilst at the other end Sammy Clingan fired a free kick over the bar. 10 minutes before the break James Singleton got his head on a cross from the left but was unable to direct the ball on target.
On 39 minutes Glentoran doubled their lead. A foul on Robbie McDaid saw the home side awarded a free kick midway inside Glenavon's half. Joe Crowe took it quickly and found Navid Nasseri who slotted it past the helpless Tuffey from 12 yards. Glenavon's confidence was dented badly and in the run up to half time both Frazer and McDaid had further chances. A third goal did arrive though, right on the 45 minute mark. Kane and Nasseri linked well on the left and Nasseri's cross was glanced home by Robbie McDaid.
Halftime: Glentoran 3-0 Glenavon
Immediately after the restart the Glens went on the attack again and again it was Nasseri causing all sorts of problems for the Lurgan Blues defence. This time he picked out Jonny Frazer but his goal bound effort was deflected just past the post for a corner.Jordan Jenkins then had a couple of opportunities to reduce the arrears. The first, a mishit shot, went wide whilst Paddy McClean got a block on his second effort, taking the pace off the ball and making the save comfortable for Antolovic.
Chris Gallagher went close from long range before another sublime through ball from Joe Crowe presented Paul O'Neill with another chance. The young striker's powerful shot was straight at Tuffey though and the keeper held on. A really poor tackle on Robbie McDaid went unpunished just before the hour mark. Given that it happened right in front of the linesman, it was strange to say the least. A couple of minutes later the knock picked up in that incident forced McDaid off with an ankle knock.
Robbie McDaid's last act prior to being substituted was to lay on the fourth goal of the night for Paul O'Neill. The move began with Nasseri finding McDaid and his through ball set O'Neill clear. As Jonathan Tuffey raced off his line the cool O'Neill clipped the ball over him and into the net. Game over. Although there was still around 30 minutes left to play the game petered out with Mick McDermott taking the opportunity to make a couple of changes. One of them saw the welcome return of Curtis Allen, the Glentoran number 9's arrival onto the Oval pitch being greeted like another goal.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Antolovic, Pepper, Kane (c), Peers (Gordon 66), McClean, Gallagher, Crowe, Nasseri, Frazer (Allen 76), O'Neill & McDaid (Van Overbeek 64)