Glentoran went to the top of the JJB Sports Premiership on Saturday, but you would have hardly known.
Aside from a brief atmospheric rise from the Oval grandstand when news broke of Kevin Kelbie’s second goal for Ballymena United against Linfield, it was seemingly a case of ‘who’s next?’ as the game against Institute ended with the Glens 1-0 victors.
Gary Hamilton scored the only goal of the game as the east Belfast men were made to work for their win, but perhaps minds were on other things.
There’s a small matter of a Setanta Sports Cup semi-final against Drogheda United to come tonight and arguably Alan McDonald’s biggest game as manager.
For that reason alone, the boss was pleased that his men came through their Stute test, knowing that it can be difficult to stay focused with such a huge game looming.
“They (the players) are only human beings and they are influenced by outside factors — with people demanding tickets for the Drogheda match and sometimes the focus can wander,” he said.
“But credit to them, they had to battle.
“There was a question asked of their character at nil-each at half-time so they had to dig deep.
“Sometimes we don’t give the opposition enough credit. Institute made it very difficult for us, there is no doubt about that.
“Thankfully the result went our way and we move on.”
That next challenge is of course that much anticipated trip down south and with the Drogs holding the advantage of being full-time, McDonald (pictured) and his team moved to attempt to redress the balance by preparing as a full-time team themselves.
“We started the process early with getting the players ready,” he added. “They went out for a cool-down and had plenty to eat in the dressing room. We also booked ourselves in for icebaths and plunge pools in Jordanstown as a recovery session and we will go down to Drogheda early to have a pre-match meal and prepare as best we can.”
Stute boss John Gregg had no complaints with his players’ performance either, saying: “You can't come to places like the Oval and not have everyone working — I got that. I thought we ran Glentoran very very close.”