Glentoran hail new hero as Lavery hits cool treble against Ards
Glentoran 4-1 Ards
Glentoran new boy Chris Lavery announced himself to The Oval with a fine hat-trick as Alan Kernaghan's men swept past Ards in the Irish Cup fifth round.
This was Lavery's home debut after arriving from Championship club Lurgan Celtic a fortnight ago, and the talented winger lived up to the hype with a virtuoso performance that would have graced any venue.
The 4-1 victory, with Jay Magee grabbing the other goal in this rearranged game - the original clash was postponed as The Oval pitch was waterlogged - set-up an intriguing sixth round tie between the last two winners of the competition, with Glenavon visiting the east-Belfast venue on Saturday, February 6.
With Glentoran missing several key players, Ards arrived at The Oval believing they could cause an upset, but the Irish Cup holders pulled the Championship side apart. If the Glens had hit six or seven, Niall Currie's men could have had no complaints.
The home side started brightly, putting the Ards defence under severe pressure. In the eighth minute, Lavery ghosted past Greg Hall before cutting the ball into the path of Jonathan Smith, but the young forward's shot ballooned over the bar.
Ards' first chance of the match arrived in the 18th minute when David McAllister's deep cross found Gary Dorrian at the back post. His curling 10-yard effort didn't turn enough to find the top corner, however.
Within a minute it was 1-0 to Glentoran. Left-back Steven McCullough, who once spent a season on loan at Ards, hit a 25-yard thunderbolt towards the top corner, which goalkeeper Ryan Brown pushed into the air. Former Dungannon Swifts man Lavery reacted first, volleying the ball into the unguarded net.
It was game, set and match in the 25th minute. Lavery got the better of Hall on the right side of the penalty box before driving the ball into the bottom corner.
It could have been 3-0 in the 32nd minute. Smith waltzed through the Ards defence before delivering a weak effort that was easily gathered by Brown.
Brown had to make a more impressive save eight minutes later when he pushed a 30-yard Francis McCaffrey shot over the bar.
Ards pulled a goal back in the 44th minute that their first-half performance certainly didn't merit. A McAllister corner-kick was headed home from a yard by centre-back Denver Gage.
Glentoran scored an almost identical goal 60 seconds into the second period.
An in-swinging Lavery corner was powered home from inside the six-yard box by Ards old boy Magee.
Lavery, the best player on the pitch by some distance, had a number of chances to complete his hat-trick.
Brown denied him with a close-range save in the 50th minute, while he fired over the bar after a fine run 13 minutes later.
In the 90th minute, he turned Kyle Buckley inside-out before curling a shot over the bar.
Then, in stoppage time, the lively winger hit the foot of the post when he looked certain to score.
His hat-trick finally arrived in the second minute of stoppage time.
Lavery collected a short corner, beat two Ards players and swept the ball past Brown.
This was Lavery and Glentoran's night but Ards learned a hard lesson. They will need to improve if they're not to be shown-up by Cliftonville in next month's League Cup final.
Glentoran: Hogg; Holland, Birney, Magee, McCullough; Scullion (McMenamin 55), Gordon, Morrow (Gibson 75), Lavery; McCaffrey, Smith (Cafolla 84). Subs not used: Henderson, Hamill.
Ards: Brown; Hall, Arthur (Browne 59), Gage, Buckley; McCullough, Dorrian, Arthurs; Baker (Boyd 78), D McAllister; O'Neill (Carson 46). Subs not used: E McAllister, Warwick.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).