Belfast Telegraph

Crunch talk rekindled a fire in the Glentoran, insists Gary

By Graham Luney

There is no such thing as a holiday when it comes to chasing success. Just ask the Glentoran players. While some New Year revellers were still recovering on Monday and others enjoyed a final day off before the daily grind started again the next day, Glens manager Gary Haveron and his players were holding a crunch meeting.

The showdown talks paid immediate dividends, with the 5-0 win at Portadown 24 hours later being the Glens' biggest win under Haveron's management, but now comes the real test - a Big Two Irish Cup fifth round battle with Linfield.

Being dumped out of the Cup on the first Saturday of January would leave the east-Belfast men with just a Europa League play-off place to fight for in the final four months of the season.

For a club built on success, that would be viewed as something of a disaster and that's why the soul-searching sessions were so key to Haveron, who is well aware of the expectations that come with the job he took in late September.

"We were in on Monday and had a good honest chat," said Haveron. "We worked a little bit on our shape, but it was more to do with having a good honest chat among ourselves. Results haven't been good enough and they haven't been what we wanted.

"I have an honest bunch and they know they haven't hit the heights and we have been a bit naive in the way we've gone about defending leads.

"We haven't been ruthless and clinical when we've had the chances, like against Dungannon last week when we'd a great chance to go 3-0 up just after half-time, we didn't take it and it came back to haunt us.

"It was about what we really want from the boys and to a man they showed at Portadown that if we can go out and play like that we'll have the fans behind us."

Haveron has his own memories of Glentoran's Irish Cup success of the past. He was in the Coleraine team that lost the 2004 decider to the Glens, when Michael Halliday (above) scored the second Irish Cup winner of his career.

That was the fourth time in nine years that the trophy rested at The Oval, but it was only in 2013 that they won it again, before following that up with a second success under Eddie Patterson in 2015.

A league title challenge still looks to be a few years away for the Glens and that's why toppling their Big Two rivals is so important.

"Given our league position, the Irish Cup is massive for us," said Haveron. "It's knockout football and it doesn't matter where you are in the league, upsets happen and you only have to look to last year and some of the teams that reached the quarters and semis so the draw can open up for you.

"It'll be an incredibly hard game for us. Linfield will be huge favourites, as they should be for a team sitting in the top two, but we won't fear anybody.

"There's no inferiority complex from us either. We want to take the Portadown result and build on it. If we turn up and play anywhere near like we did we'll be a match for anybody."

In contrast to the Glens piling the agony onto struggling Portadown, Linfield slipped to defeat to Coleraine on Tuesday.

It will be a case of beware the wounded animal with the Blues also determined to right the wrongs of last season when they slumped to Cup final defeat to Glenavon.

"I don't read too much into Linfield's result on Tuesday," said Haveron. "Saturday will be a completely different game. If we get the same kind of level of performance as we did at Portadown, I will be delighted.

"We drew at Windsor on Boxing Day and it was no more than we deserved."

Now Haveron is hoping that a decision he took to field his strongest team against Portadown instead of resting his big players pays off in reverse.

He mulled over whether to give Curtis Allen the night off, but instead the striker warmed up for the Big Two clash by banging in two goals.

Allen and high-profile summer signing Nacho Novo haven't had too many chances to play together, but both scored against the Ports and the partnership looks like one that can blossom.

"It was fantastic for Nacho to get a start and a goal," said Haveron. "He took his goal brilliantly, he's got that quality and Curtis weighed in with two. I was tempted to rest him, but I'm glad I played him."

Belfast Telegraph


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