Rhys Marshall blows title race open in Glentoran win
New boy Rhys Marshall last night bagged his first goal hit his first goal for Glentoran to shoot his team right back into the Danskie Bank Premiership title race.
It was another night of agony for David Healy’s title holders, who fell to the second defeat in seven days to their fierce Belfast rivals.
Mick McDermott’s team still trail the table-topping Blues by nine points, but they have played two games less. The east Belfast side are now playing with a swagger, suggesting they are ready to muscle in with the title challengers.
It was Jay Donnelly who got the party started, with the Glens’ big money signing in the January transfer window, Conor McMenamin hitting a second. Stephen Fallon did pull one back for the Blues, Marshall hit the killer strike midway through the second half.
The home team were under the cosh right from the off and were fortunate to survive a frenetic opening seven minutes. Shayne Lavery caught the Glens cold with a solo run on the right before drilling in a low cross that was pawed clear by Dayle Coleing.
Seconds later, Stephen Fallon repeated the dose on the right, this time his cross was hoofed clear by a relieved Paddy McClean.
Glentoran still didn’t heed the warning and they let Lavery roam free again on the right. From another of his low crosses, defender Luke McCullough was fortunate to scoop the ball over his own crossbar.
Incredibly, the Glens were in front in their first meaningful attack on nine minutes.
New signing from Cliftonville Conor McMenamin crossed low and hard from the left and when the ball found Donnelly at the back post, he made no mistake.
It could have been worse for Healy’s troops. Hrvjoe Plum managed to wriggle free of Conor Pepper just inside the box, but his drive was superbly pushed to safety by Chris Johns.
The Blues were now living dangerously with Johns beaten to the ball by Glens skipper Marcus Kane on the left, but the defender’s looping effort drifted wide.
It was no surprise when the Glens struck again on 33 minutes. Healy will again have nightmares over his team’s defending. McClean’s punt forward was flicked on by Jay Donnelly for his brother, Ruaidhri. He managed to hold off a challenge from Jimmy Callacher before seeing his shot saved by Johns, but the ball fell invitingly for McMenamin, who stroked home.
But the champions were back in it seconds before the break. McClean hauled down the fast-raiding Pepper 20 yards out. Kirk Millar’s low free kick was beaten out by Coleing, but Fallon followed up to tuck home the rebound.
The Blues again looked lively after the restart, with Joel Cooper turning McClean inside out before firing in a low drive that was shoveled away at the base of the post by Coleing.
But the Glens took a stranglehold of the game on 63 minutes with Marshall’s persistence paying a huge dividend.
McMenamin’s cross was unconvincingly punched clear by Johns only to Marshall whose initial shot was saved by the over-worked goalkeeper, but when the ex-Shamrock Rover’s man latched on to the rebound, he made no mistake.
The Glens were unlucky not to have hit a fourth following a energy sapping 60-dash by McMenamin, only to see his shot saved by Johns.
GLENTORAN: Coleing, Marron, McCullough, McClean, Kane, Marshall, Gallagher, Plum, R Donnelly (Stewart 86), J Donnelly (McDonagh 79), McMenamin. Unused subs: Brown, Bigirimana, Gorman, O’Connor, Crowe.
LINFIELD: Johns, Pepper, Haughey (Larkin 46), Callacher, Clarke, Millar (Waterworth 69), Mulgrew, Fallon, McClean (Stewart 69), Cooper, Lavery. Unused subs: Moore, Nasseri, Quinn, Palmer.
REFEREE: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).
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