Glentoran young guns shoot down Saints
Glentoran 1 St Patrick's Ath 0 (Glentoran win 1-0 on aggregate)
Glentoran have emerged as the only Irish League side to progress from the first round of the Setanta Sports Cup.
After their narrow 1-0 win over St Patrick's Athletic, thanks to a flourish from teenager Martin Murray, the Glens have reiterated how youth can also mean quality and booked their place in the quarter-finals, against Sligo Rovers.
Commending his youngsters after the game, Oval chief Eddie Patterson said: "We have a very, very young squad, possibly one of the youngest in the league.
"We have some good quality there in the kids and the only way they will be brought on is with more games.
"The quality that has been shown over the past four or five games has shown that."
Patterson applauded Murray for his stylish flick from close range, but criticised an overall lack of precision. "The goal was quite special," he added.
"Wee Marty pops up with those now and gain and has done it regularly for the reserves. He is a feisty wee character and we want lads who are willing to put their bodies in front of the ball and show their quality – that's fight and grit as well as play decent football. With a bit more composure in front of goal, who knows? We were very wasteful with our final ball."
After pushing St Pat's to a 0-0 draw at Richmond Park, Glentoran were eager to take the home advantage. With the exception of stand-in Aaron Hogg in nets, Patterson's five changes he'd made against the first leg side added experience, and the Glens looked determined to take control.
What they lacked from the start, however, was precision and a cutting edge.
Stephen McAlorum shot wide on 12 minutes and moments later Andy Waterworth followed up but misfired his effort over the bar.
John McGuigan danced just inside the area to shoot low and hard, but just edged past the near post.
Murray's free kick was speculative at best, as it was dispatched yards above the crossbar. Former Manchester United forward Christy Fagan had a spectacular chance to put the visitors ahead on 35 minutes but failed to connect with his golden chance, after the ball was curled perfectly into the six-yard box from Brennan's corner.
Late in the first half, Jim O'Hanlon exerted himself on the edge of the area to try and fight for an opening goal, but Brennan blocked his first attempt and goalkeeper Dave Ryan handled his second.
Three minutes into the second half, Aidan Price almost gifted Glentoran the lead when his defensive clearance zipped along Ryan's line but it just drifted away from danger.
Patterson's men, however, looked less likely to be taking their own chances.
McAlorum's free-kick from 20 yards out at a difficult angle was rifled into the wall, and although he scrambled after the rebound, it came to nothing. Fuelled by frustration, Waterworth quickly burst along the flank and O'Hanlon also fought to break them down before fortune struck for Murray.
McAlorum's attempt from close range was blocked but mis-managed, and Murray securely flicked it into the net.
Angered, St Pat's hit back immediately, with Fagan heading just wide of goal from Sean Gannon's cross.
Liam Buckley's men have struggled in this competition. Cliftonville dumped them out in the first round twice in the past two years, and while they reached the final in 2010, were thoroughly out-classed by Bohemians.
After making six changes to the first leg's starting side, Buckley benefited from little more than offering his players a run-out, including new Republic under-21 prospect, Chris Forrester.
GLENTORAN: Hogg, Bradley, Nixon, Birney, Hill, Clarke, McAlorum, McGuigan (Ward, 72), Murray, O'Hanlon (Gibson, 82), Waterworth. Subs not used: McComb, Magee, Callacher, McCullough.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Ryan, O'Brien, Bermingham, Kenna, Price, Brennan, Carroll, Gannon (Murphy, 82), Keegan, Forrester (Byrne, 67), Fagan (Flood, 72). Subs not used: Clarke, Hoare, Bolger.
Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).