4 goals in 13 first half minutes gave Glentoran a comfortable win in this afternoon's Sports Direct Premiership fixture. Aidan Wilson was back in the starting line up following suspension and forward, David Fisher came in for Junior who was named among the substitutes.
Unusually, Glentoran began attacking the Sydenham End in the first half. The game began slowly and there were 12 minutes on the clock before we had our first real effort on goal. The Glens broke forward with Niall McGinn carrying the ball to the edge of the penalty area before finding Jay Donnelly. Donnelly's low shot was heading towards the bottom corner of the net but Sean O'Neill got down well to turn the ball round the post. Shortly afterwards Jay picked up an ankle injury. After treatment he was able to continue for a couple of minutes before being forced to retire. Junior replaced him on 19 minutes.
Midway through the first half Glentoran finally made the breakthrough. They had been putting the Sky Blues' defence under pressure and forced a number of corners. One of these, swung in from the left by Cameron Palmer was met by Aidan Wilson who headed powerfully home from close range. A couple of minutes later there was a half chance for the visitors to get back into in but Fraser Taylor's weak shot was easily dealt with by Aaron McCarey.
Glentoran doubled their advantage on 26 minutes. Jonny Russell's throw in found Fuad Sule and his cross to Daire O'Connor was laid off to Junior who drove the ball past O'Neill from just inside the penalty area. Junior might have got another moments later when he almost got on the end of a cross from Russell but the ball was turned behnd for yet another corner.
The 3rd goal arrived on 29 minutes. Glentoran were awarded a free kick midway inside the Ballymena United half. The alert Cameron Palmer spotted Jonny Russell making a run on the left and his quickly taken free kick picked out the young left back. Russell's ball across the 6-yard box was beautifully finished off by Junior. A delightful ball from Daire O'Connor then set up a chance for David Fisher. 1 v 1 with the keeper, Fisher's powerful shot was goalbound until O'Neill tipped it over the crossbar. From the resulting set piece though, Glentoran netted their 4th. Palmer's corner was initially cleared but O'Connor regained possession and his clipped ball into the area was volleyed home by skipper, James Singleton from 10-yards out.
Glentoran continued to press and dominate, looking for a 5th goal before the break. Junior set up Palmer on 40 minutes but he blasted over and then roles were reversed when Palmer picked out Junior in the area with a free kick but the big striker headed wide. In stoppage time there was another opportunity for Junior to get his hattrick when O'Connor found him in the area. Sean O'Neill denied him though, saving his effort at the second attempt. A foul on Palmer gave the Glens a free kick on the edge of the area. Naill McGinn went for goal but saw his effort go just wide of the post.
Halftime: Glentoran 4-0 Ballymena United
The second half was less than 4 minutes old when Glentoran made it 5-nil. A superb pass from Niall McGinn picked out David Fisher on the edge of the 'D'. Fisher went for goal and with the shot taking a slight deflection, O'Neill had no chance! On 54 minutes a long ball from Singleton set Jonny Russell clear down the left. His cross almost found Junior but O'Neill just got a touch on the ball to take it away from the Glentoran number 40.
With Ballymena United clearly struggling to cope with the Glens, the game became a bit more aggressive. Just after the hour mark and with United having picked up their second yellow card in less than a minute following a poor challenge on Daire O'Connor, the home side had a free kick around 25 yards from goal. Cameron Palmer ran over the ball and everyone then expected Niall McGinn to put it into the penalty area. Instead he passed the ball square to substitute Josh Kelly. His effort looked destined for the top corner but again O'Neill was able to get a hand to the ball and turn it past the post.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men on 66 minutes. Donal Rocks, who had been one of the players to pick up a second half caution, caught Cameron Palmer with an elbow to the head. Referee Declan Hassan produced a second yellow for Rocks - arguably it could have been a straight red! Another Glentoran substitute, Aaron Wightman went on a run deep into the United half on 72 minutes but his shot flew over the bar. With just under 10 minutes remaining a free kick to the visitors, around 30 yards from goal, was taken by former Glentoran player, Steven McCullough but Aaron McCarey got down to his left to turn the ball away to safety. In added time there was one final opportunity for the Glens to equal the 6-nil victory over Loughgall a few weeks ago. Junior did well to get into a crossing position on the right and he found Rory Donnelly in the area but he fired over.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Wilson (Wightman 58), McClean, Singleton (c), Russell, Sule (Kelly 58), Palmer (McCartan 69), McGinn, O'Connor, J. Donnelly (Junior 19) & Fisher (R. Donnelly 69.