Glentoran recorded their second league victory in Co. Armagh with a narrow 1-nil victory over newly promoted Loughgall thanks to a close range Daire O'Connor goal. It was a fully deserved victory and given Glentoran's dominance it could and should have been more emphatic. With Aidan Wilson missing through injury, club captain Marcus Kane came back into the starting XI playing alongside Luke McCullough in the centre of defence. Otherwise it was the same team which started against Larne last Friday night.
The Glens were dominant in the early stages and their first real opportunity came just three minutes in when Jay Donnelly's pass towards Shay McCartan was turned behind for a corner. McCartan's corner was met by Marcus Kane but his header was narrowly wide of the target. A poor defensive clearance by Loughgall skipper Ben Murdoch presented Shay McCartan with a chance on twelve minutes but he shot wide from the edge of the area. That was followed almost immediately by a powerful drive from Daire O'Connor. His shot took a wicked deflection though and Berraat Turker in the home goal was able to gather comfortably.
Just before the quarter hour mark a superb long pass from Marcus Kane picked out Daire O'Connor on the right wing. His low cross was deflected behind for another corner. Bobby Burns took it and found an unmarked James Singleton in the box but his header failed to trouble the goalkeeper. A poor tackle on Aaron Wightman gave the Glens a free kick wide on the right. Shay McCartan swung the ball into the area but Marcus Kane's header was straight at Turker. The Loughgall keeper tried to set up a quick counter attack, throwing the ball to Pablo Andrade on the edge of the area. Niall McGinn was alert to the situation though and won possession before driving towards the by-line and firing a low cross which found Daire O'Connor at the back post. O'Connor's tap in will probably be the easiest goal he's ever scored.
The Glens went close again shortly afterwards when Shay McCartan's 25-yard effort brought a decent save out of Berraat Turker. Glentoran were completely dominant at this point and a second goal seemed inevitable. Kane and Singleton linked up well before finding McGinn who won yet another corner but it came to nothing. As halftime approached the home side did start to grow into the game but they were largely kept at bay thanks to a superb defensive performance from Luke McCullough. A free kick from Pablo Andrade found a team mate in the area and Aaron McCarey made a decent save to keep the Glens in front. There followed a couple of long range efforts from Tiernan Kelly; both wide of the mark. It first half stoppage time a freee kick from Caolan McAleer was comfortably held by McCarey.
Halftime: Loughgall 0-1 Glentoran
An early corner in the second half brought another opportunity for the Glens to increase their advantage but Luke McCullough's header was narrowly over the bar. On 53 minutes a superb through ball from Bobby Burns set Jay Donnelly through in a 1 v 1 situation with the keeper. Jay carried the ball into the area but although his shot was on target, Turker saved with his legs. O'Conneor set up the next chance for Shay McCartan but again Turker was in the right place to prevent the Glens from doubling their lead.
On 71 minutes an injury to Aaron Wightman forced the Glens to reshuffle their back line. Jonny Russell came on to play at left back with James Singleton moving across to the right. A dangerous break down the right by Alberto Balde Almanzar gave hope to the home support but he overhit his cross and the danger was gone. Loughgall were working hard trying to force their way back into the game but the defence, with the excellent Fuad Sule sitting just in front of them, would not be breached.
With seven minutes remaining a foul on Bobby Burns gave Glentoran a free kick 25 yards from goal. Niall McGinn stepped up and he was desperately unlucky to see his curling effort hit the inside of the post but stay out with the keeper beaten. A couple of minutes later the same post was struck again, this time by Bobby Burns after he was set up by substitute Junior. Moments later Berraat Turker was back in action to keep out a powerful shot from Niall McGinn. Things got a bit nervous as the fourth official indicated eight minutes of additional time. The home side pressed hard for an equaliser but the Glentoran backline held firm and deservedly went back up the motorway with the three points.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Wightman (Russell 71), Singleton, McCullough, Kane (c), Sule, Burns, McCartan (Palmer 76), McGinn, O'Connor (Kelly 89) & J. Donnelly (Junior 76)