Nacho Novo can fire Glens into Euro play-offs, insists boss Haveron
Glentoran 1 Carrick Rangers 0
Glentoran boss Gary Haveron believes that Nacho Novo can finish the season on a high.
The 37-year-old last night grabbed a priceless winner for the east Belfast side against struggling Carrick Rangers at The Oval, which moved them into seventh place in the table - and keeps them in the mix for a European play-off spot.
"Nacho has had a terrible time with injury this season and we are at last beginning to see the best of him," said Haveron. "His goal was crucial to us because it's important we hold on to that seventh place in the table.
"It's financially important to be in with a chance of the Euro qualifiers - anything can happen.
"We now go into the split with back-to-back wins for only the second time this season, so we have to take heart from that."
Amazingly, it was the Glens' first win in front of their home fans since November 26 - and it's only the fourth time they've taken three points from a league fixture at The Oval this season.
Former Glentoran man Steven McCullough came within inches of opening the scoring after only seven minutes when his fierce free-kick from 25 yards fizzed inches past the post after James Ferrin had flattened Martin Murray.
The home team responded with Chris Lavery trying his luck from distance, which was deflected over by Paddy McNally.
Carrick's Chris Morrow produced a wonderful piece of skill on 28 minutes when he picked up a knock down from Sean Noble, but his volley inched just over the top.
Novo was also left holding his head in frustration on 34 minutes. He dusted himself down after being hauled down by Kyle McVey, but his free-kick drifted over the crossbar.
Noble created the best opportunity of the first half for the east Antrim boys when his surging run took him clear and, when he cut the ball across the face of the goal, striker Declan O'Brien just failed to get a telling touch. Novo gave the home fans something to cheer less than 60 seconds after the restart. It was Lavery's trickery on the left that carved out the chance and when he sent a low cross into the middle, Novo did the rest.
Carrick attempted to come back with O'Brien picking out Noble, but the big striker hoofed the effort wildly over the crossbar.
Conal Delaney almost hit a killer second for the home team but could only shoot across the face of goal. Glentoran had a chance to put the game to bed three minutes from time when McNally was penalised for handling a Curtis Allen header. Brian Neeson, however, produced an astonishing save to keep out Allen's spot-kick.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Magee, Allen, Novo (Smith 90), Lavery, McAlorum, McAuley, Addis, Redman, Ferrin, Delaney (Sterling 91).
Unused subs: O'Flynn, Cafolla, Nelson.
CARRICK: Neeson, Smyth (Elder 83), McVey, McNally, McCullough, TJ Murray, M Murray, Morrow, Kelly, O'Brien, Noble (Clarke 72).
Unused subs: McConnell, Chapman, Taggart.
Referee: Ian McNabb
Man of the match: Nacho Novo
Match rating: 5/10
Fixtures Today (3pm): Ards v Glenavon, Ballinamallard United v Linfield, Cliftonville v Ballymena United, Coleraine v Crusaders, Portadown v Dungannon Swifts