Glentoran travelled north to Inver Park to face Larne in Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership game, televised live on BBC NI. It was the third meeting of the sides this season. In the previous two, played at the Oval, Larne started strongly and went in front only for Glentoran to fight back and win the game.
Larne started brightly again in this game going in front with a superb 25-yard free kick from Mark Randall with less than 4 minutes played. It took the Glens a while to get up to speed but gradually they grew into the game and began to create a few chances with both Paul O'Neill and Navid Nasseri going close.
Paul O'Neill, who missed the last couple of games due to being away on international duty with the Northern Ireland U21 side, brought the Glens level in the 19th minute. Larne failed to deal with a ball into the penalty area and the young Glentoran striker took his chance, smashing the ball into the net through a group of players.
Larne had penalty claims waved away a couple of minutes later when McDaid went down under the challenge of Marian Antolovic. The BBC pundits seemed convinced a spot kick should have been awarded but Antolovic definitely got a touch on the ball, altering its direction completely. The Glens cleared the ball to midfield and good closing down from Hrvoje Plum saw the ball break towards Robbie McDaid. Fuad Sule tried to intercept for the home side but the ball broke to O'Neill. He drove forward before cutting inside Albert Watson and unleashing a superb 25-yard effort into the bottom corner. Both sides had further opportunities to score but at the interval the Glens led 2-1.
On 54 minutes the home side got back on terms when Sean Graham netted in similar fashion to Paul O'Neill's first. At this stage Larne were the dominant team and looked the most likely winners; Glentoran failing to keep possession when getting forward. There was the odd bright moment, none better than Patrick McClean's 40 yard drive. The strike looked destined for the top corner and had it found it the 'Goal of the Season' competition would be over already. Devlin got a hand to it though and turned it behind for a corner. From the set piece McClean got a powerful header on target but again Devlin was equal to it.
Glentoran went in front with 7 minutes left and what a goal it was. Harry Flowers conceded a soft, and perhaps needless free kick, shoving substitute Cameron Stewart in the back about 10 yards inside the Larne half. Hrvoje Plum put the ball into the danger area and Cameron Stewart rose highest, heading the ball to McClean. The big Derry defender controlled the ball on his chest before planting an overhead kick into the Larne goal. The Glentoran fans behind the goal went crazy, as did McClean and most of his teammates!
Whilst Paul O'Neill and 'Man of the Match' Patrick McClean will have grabbed all the headlines the Glentoran goalkeeper, Marijan Antolovic also deserves special praise, the big Croatian keeper pulling of a number of fine saves, particularly in the second half when the home side were in the ascendancy. Despite 6 minutes of added time the Glentoran side held firm and headed back to East Belfast with all 3 points.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Antolovic, Pepper, Kane (c), McClean, Peers (Murray 86), Plum, Nasseri (Herron 58), Gallagher, Van Overbeek, O'Neill (Stewart 68) & McDaid.