Glentoran are top of the Danske Bank Premiership after a comprehensive victory at the Bet McLean Oval this evening.
Before kick-off there was a minute's applause as both sets of players, the staff and supporters remembered former Irish League footballer, Frankie Wilson who sadly lost his battle with cancer.
Glens boss, Mick McDermott made just one change to the starting XI following last week's victory over Newry City. James Singleton came into the team at left back, replacing skipper Marcus Kane who had a slight hamstring strain. The game got underway in almost perfect conditions and in front of a large crowd of around 3000 with Glentoran attacking the City End. It was the visitors though with the first chance in the game; Paddy McClean, wearing the captain's armband, doing well to clear a Larne corner in the early stages. Glentoran's first chance came on 9 minutes when a flick on from Rory Donnelly found Conor McMenamin but the Northern Ireland international saw his shot blocked by Daniel Kearns.
A minute later though the Glens edged in front. Conor McMenamin stepped up to take a free kick out on the right hand side, around 25-yards from the by-line. He swung the ball into the danger area where the in-rushing McClean, Wilson and Jay Donnelly all looked to get on the end of it. Nobody did! The ball went in via the far post with Larne keeper Rohan Ferguson perhaps thinking it was drifting wide. The Larne defence appealed in vain for offside but the home side were ahead.
On 13 minutes excellent link up play between Jay Donnelly and Conor McMenamin resulted in another chance for the Glentoran number 24 before Shaun Want intervened, putting the ball out for a corner. Cian Bolger was then in the right place to turn another McMenamin cross behind as the Glens looked for a second. Midway through the half former Glentoran forward, Paul O'Neill put a decent ball into the Glentoran penalty area but Aidan Wilson was on hand to cut out the danger. Larne almost levelled on the half hour mark following another corner kick. Cian Bolger rose to meet the cross but his glancing header flashed just wide of the far post.
On 37 minutes there was a half chance for Leroy Millar but once again it was Aidan Wilson in the way to block his shot. With 3 minutes to the break the game was held up following a clash of heads between Cian Bolger and Rory Donnelly. The Glentoran forward had to receive lengthy treatment before being helped off the pitch in first half stoppage time; Danny Purkis coming on as his replacement. A couple of minutes later the trainers were on the pitch again, this time for another double head injury - Bobby Burns and Leroy Millar - with the Larne midfielder coming off worse. With the clock showing 52 minutes, referee Crangle finally brought the first half to a close.
Halftime: Glentoran 1-0 Larne
Leroy Millar was unable to come out for the second half with Shea Gordon replacing him and just 10 minutes after the restart Bobby Burns also went off; Terry Devlin coming on. The first real opportunity of the second half came from yet another cross by Conor McMenamin on the right however there was just a little too much pace on the ball and it evaded Shay McCartan and Hrvoje Plum.
On 59 minutes the second Glentoran goal arrived. Danny Purkis played the ball down the right to Conor McMenamin. He outpaced Cian Bolger before firing a great cross into the Sydenham End penalty area. The ball glanced off the head of Daniel Kearns but there was Jay Donnelly at the back post to head powerfully past Rohan Ferguson. It was the 5th goal of the season for 'The Striker'.
Terry Devlin's superb long ball to Conor McMenamin set the Glens on the way to number 3. Conor McMenamin, who in this phase of the game was virtually unplayable, went past Jeff Hughes once more, putting a low cross into the 6-yard box where Danny Purkis had the simple task of finishing it off. Larne were deflated and the large home support buoyant. The Glens were heading to the top of the table. A couple of minutes later a long ball forward by the visitors was intercepted by Aidan Wilson before it could reach Paul O'Neill. Wilson turned the ball towards his own goal and for a brief moment it looked like it might go in! The ball went inches past the post although the linesman's flag was up to indicate offside anyway against O'Neill.
With 20 minutes remaining Conor McMenamin was taken out in front of the home dugout by a ridiculous challenge from Jeff Hughes. The ball was gone and McMenamin was gone. Referee Raymond Crangle determined that the punishment was a yellow card but surely such an attempt to injure an opponent should result in a red! It's not the first ime this season that our Northern Ireland international has been on the end of such treatment and unless he's given better protection from the officials it won't be the last. Eventually there'll be a serious injury.
On 82 minutes McMenamin was to the fore once again. Rhys Marshall, again superb at the back, brought the ball out of defence before finding Danny Purkis. He played the ball to Conor McMenamin who collected it about 10 yards inside his own half. He outpaced Ben Doherty and Graham Kelly before curling the ball towards the far top corner of the net from around 15 yards. The ball deflected off Fuad Sule, giving Ferguson no chance. McMenamin's goal or an own goal?
With two goals and two assists, 'Man of the Match' Conor McMenamin was replaced on 83 minutes by Sean Murray with Ally Roy also coming on for Jay Donnelly. There was also one great final chance in stoppage time when the excellent Shay McCartan played a delightful ball through to Danny Purkis. This time though Rohan Ferguson blocked the shot with his legs.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Wilson, McClean (c), Singleton, Burns (devlin 55), Plum, McCartan, J. Donnelly (Roy 83), R. Donnelly (Purkis 45+1) & McMenamin (Murray 83)