Glentoran grab Boxing Day glory as Hrvoje Plum bags brace against Linfield

Mick McDermott’s Glentoran blasted their way into the Danske Bank Premiership title race with a crucial win over fierce rivals Linfield at the Oval.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th December 2019, 6:12 pm
Glentoran delight at the final whistle following home success on Boxing Day over Linfield by 3-0. Pic by Pacemaker.
Glentoran delight at the final whistle following home success on Boxing Day over Linfield by 3-0. Pic by Pacemaker.

The big traditional Boxing Day shootout lived up to all expectations in front of a sell-out crowd.

It was Glentoran’s Croatian summer signing Hrvoje Plum who stole the show with two second-half strikes that had the red, green and black side of the ground jumping for joy.

Elvio Van Overbeek got the belated Christmas party started by shooting the Glens into an early lead - but Linfield will still be wondering how they lost by such a jaw-dropping margin as they managed to squander a number of excellent opportunities and found Glens goalkeeper Marijan Antolovic in top form.

The Glens are now a staggering 11 games unbeaten – and they are looking very much like champions in the making!

There was a lovely touch by both sets of fans who stood for a one-minute applause in memory of Glentoran defender Marcus Kane’s baby son, who sadly passed away last week.

Backed on by the big home crowd, the Glens got off to the start they craved with Van Overbeek’s opener on seven minutes.

Patrick McClean’s long throw-in from the left came off the head of Gavin Peers, which fell nicely for Navid Nasseri, whose scuffed effort trickled across the face of the goal for the little Dutchman to back-heel past Rohan Ferguson.

But Linfield responded in a positive manner. In fact, they really should have been level five minutes later.

Matt Clarke’s corner-kick found the head of defender Jimmy Callacher, but he looked on in frustration as Connor Pepper hoofed his effort off the line.

The Blues certainly grew into the game, with Jamie Mulgrew and Stephen Fallon dominating the middle of the park.

Healy’s team threatened again on the half-hour when the diminutive Joel Cooper took off on a trademark dash on the right and, after leaving McClean in his wake, his low drive was somehow diverted clear by Antolovic.

Seconds later, Jordan Stewart popped up on the left and, after spotting Andy Waterworth free, he picked out the big striker with the most delicious of deliveries, but the header flashed inches past the post.

The Blues had another big chance to level just before the interval. Bastien Hery’s corner-kick was fumbled by Antolovic, which caused chaos in the Glentoran six-yard box and when Mark Haughey made a yard of space for himself, he could only screw his shot over the crossbar.

Linfield carried on where they left off after the restart.

Waterworth had a low shot flash into Antolovic before a lightning break involving Hery and Cooper resulted in Fallon curling a low drive just past the post.

And they were only inches away from an equaliser on 67 minutes. Another corner-kick from Clarke caused mayhem in the Glentoran defence and, when the ball broke to Stewart on the edge of the box, his low drive clipped the outside of the post.

But the Glens could have been out of sight on 70 minutes when Willie Garrett met a Plum free-kick, only to see his thumping header saved by Ferguson after Cameron Stewart had been flattened by a clumsy challenge by Josh Robinson.

The Blues fans felt they were back on level terms on 72 minutes when Waterworth powered home a great cross from Cooper - only for referee Ian McNabb to rule out the goal because of an offside infringement.

But the home fans were jumping with joy again 14 minutes from time with a Plum special. He robbed Fallon in the centre circle and, after a piercing 20-yard dash, drilled an unstoppable low shot past Ferguson.

And the Glens were out of sight six minutes from time. Robinson needlessly hauled down substitute Paul O’Neill inside the box and referee McNabb had no hesitation awarding the penalty kick.

Plum was precise from the spot.

GLENTORAN: Antolovic, Garrett, Peers, Gallagher, McDaid, Stewart (Frazer, 87), McClean, Pepper, Nasseri (Crowe, 79), Plum, Overbeek (O’Neill, 79).

Subs (not used): Morris, Birney, Herron, Murray.

LINFIELD: Ferguson, Robinson, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart (Shevlin, 79), Clarke (Kearns, 79), Fallon, Hery (Lavery, 61), Mulgrew.

Subs (not used): Moore, McGivern, Mitchell, Casement.

REFEREE: Ian McNabb.