There was a time when the Oval was a fortress - now home is very much where the heartbreak is for Glentoran.
Saturday marked another defeat for the reigning champions — their eighth in all domestic competitions — as struggling Newry City became their latest conquerors.
Remarkably, though, out of all of those eight reverses, seven of them have come on their own patch, leaving boss Alan McDonald scratching his head in disbelief.
McDonald was at a loss to explain why their form in east Belfast has become so sketchy and even sympathised with fans who can’t travel too far as they’ve missed the best of the Glens’ displays this season.
Stephen Garrett’s penalty was the difference between the sides on Saturday as Glentoran failed to break down a hardworking City midfield and defence and thus let slip their position at the top of the Carling Premiership having fought their way back to the summit again last week.
But results and performances at home are worrying McDonald and, with the biggest home game of all coming up next Saturday in the annual festive joust with Linfield, it is a matter that needs to be addressed further and quickly.
“These are games we have to win if we are going to do anything and it’s hugely disappointing. Again we go from a rollercoaster ride at the top to the bottom.
“I can sympathise with the fans at the Oval because some of them don’t travel away and they don’t see the performance on Saturday (against Institute), they don’t see the performance at Windsor on Tuesday night.
“Our last home game against Dungannon, the performance wasn’t good and I can sympathise with them because we certainly are not giving them value for money at the moment.”
He added: “If we are being honest the home form hasn’t been good all year. I don’t know what it is. We’ve tried various things, we’ve tried changing different things, we’ve tried isolating the players a bit more to get them to concentrate. Somewhere down the line it has to come down to attitude.
“Maybe the pressure or expectancy level of playing at the Oval gets to them. You look at the last two results where we are going away from home and, not the fact that we are underdogs, but we are away and have an attitude that we have to perform at someone else’s venue. Maybe that’s a factor.
“It’s very concerning because, again, here we are back to square one when you think we have had so many positives over the last couple of games and yet here we are having to rebuild again for what is a big, big game next Saturday.”
Before the weekend’s programme, all the talk was of the fact that it was the champions who held all the aces in the race for the title, with Linfield the jokers in the pack due to their awful recent form.
However, the trump card belonged to Crusaders who, despite having recently come out of an eight game winless streak, have stormed to the top of the table.
The Blues’ defeat at Ballymena United added to the sense of frustration at the Oval as the Glens piled on the pressure but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
But while the Big Two worry about each other, over on the Shore Road, things are looking up again with McDonald admitting the Glentoran and Linfield are in danger of handing the title to the Crues.
“It looks that way,” he said. “Look at the way the results have gone with Linfield and ourselves losing and Crusaders winning it seems as though that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The Glens didn’t have that many gilt-edged chances thanks to the City defence and the boys in the middle but the match turned on the awarding of a penalty when Paul Leeman was adjudged to have sent Ross Black tumbling in the box.
Garrett rocketed the spot kick home and ended a ten-year wait for a league win for the Brodermen at the Oval
“It’s a big win, the last few weeks I don’t think we have had much luck,“ said boss john McDonnell.
“We set out our plan this week in relation to where we are playing and we tried to play on the break and use the wide men. We knew they would have lots of the ball and we had to frustrate them.
“Overall I think we did OK and I’m delighted for the players. But it’s important that we drive on from here.”