Glenatoran boss, Gary Haveron praised his side’s fighting spirit as they got their Dankse Bank Premiership campaign back on track with a battling victory over Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.
The Oval men bounced back from a1-0 defeat to Linfield at Windsor Park - their first loss in seven outings this season - and Haveron was delighted to see his side claw out a deserved win against the Braidmen whose three game winning run came to an abrupt end.
The hosts, however, will feel they deserved more as Conor McCloskey hit the woodwork in either half while Ballymena boss, David Jeffrey felt his side were denied a stone-wall penalty on 20 minutes when Cathair Friel went down under the challenge of Glens’ defender, Calum Birney.
In truth, it was a combination of Ballymena’s failure to capitalise on their chances when on top, individual errors by goalkeeper, Conor Brennan and several terrific saves from Glentoran’s Elliott Morris which led to their downfall.
Despite the Sky Blues’ early dominance, Marcus Kane headed the Glens in front close to the half hour mark and Curtis Allen doubled the East Belfast men’s advantage on 61 minutes.
Almost immediately Ballymena hit back through Friel to set up a grandstand finish but John McGuigan’s free-kick wrong-footed Brennan and fortuitously sailed into the top corner to make certain of the three points with seven minutes to go.
It was far from Glentoran’s best performance of the season but Haveron was happy to see his side ‘come out fighting’ and dig out a valuable victory.
“It was important we bounced back from last week because we didn’t get what we deserved at Windsor,” he said. “We had to lick our wounds but came out fighting and got the win which, on reflection, was well deserved.
“Ballymena showed us respect because they set out with a 4-5-1 formation from the outset and that’s maybe a reflection that people are seeing we’re playing decent football that can hurt teams.
“But we showed another side to us today. People are talking about us knocking the ball about and playing good football but we showed heart and commitment to each other.”
United came so close to the breakthrough on 10 minutes as Kevin Braniff’s beautifully disguised pass played McCloskey through on goal but his left footed strike cannoned back off the crossbar.
Friel’s 25 yard strike was then beaten away by Morris before the home side had strong claims for a penalty when Friel went to ground under the challenge of Birney on 20 minutes but referee, Ian McNabb waved play on.
Glentoran stepped it up as the half hour mark approached and when McGuigan won the chase with United keeper his curling effort from the edge of the penalty area was headed off the line by Tony Kane with Brennan back-pedalling.
Despite Ballymena’s dominance in the opening stages it was Glentoran who broke the deadlock from Ross Redman’s free-kick on 29 minutes. United keeper, Brennan found himself in no-man’s land as the ball came into his area and Kane rose highest to head into the unguarded net from close range.
Glentoran doubled their lead on 61 minutes when Allen got onto McGuigan’s cross and his downward header bounced into the net.
Just over 60 seconds later United were back in the game following a scramble inside the Glentoran penalty area following a long throw-in. When the ball eventually broke to Friel, he poked the ball into the far corner.
The impressive Kane delivered an inviting ball to the back post on 74 minutes as Ballymena went for an equaliser but McCloskey’s header clipped the top of the crossbar.
And McGuigan made certain of the victory with seven minutes to go as his free-kick from wide on the left caught out Brennan and sailed into the far top corner.