Joy for Linfield in David Jeffrey's Oval finale
Published 22/02/2014 | 01:31
Glentoran 0 Linfield 1: David Jeffrey has many memories of The Oval from his near 30-year association with Linfield and he finished his last Big Two adventure at the venue as a winner.
The Blues supremo, who is stepping down from the post at the end of the season, was all smiles after watching his men bag what could be a priceless 1-0 victory.
If the Glens can consolidate their place in the top six going into the split, the sides will resume hostilities at Windsor Park when Jeffrey hopes to be closing in on a 10th championship during his trophy laden 17-year managerial reign.
Sky Sports cameras were at the east-Belfast venue to capture every feisty challenge in the Big Two showdown and they recorded a crucial away win that lifted the Blues two points above Cliftonville at the top of the Premiership table.
Jeffrey hailed his troops for keeping their title charge in top gear, saying: "It's a results business and I am delighted to win here on my last visit to The Oval. It's a phenomenal feeling.
"I thought we did well in difficult conditions. Glentoran started well, but we got stronger and should have done better with a few chances.
"The second half was a much better display and we could have scored more. This game is about goals and thankfully we got the one that mattered. It was definitely a penalty but Jonny Tuffey also made a stunning save."
Glentoran assistant boss Tiernan Lynch said: "I'm disappointed, I felt we could have got something out of the game. Our work-rate and commitment impressed and if Curtis Allen had taken his chance we could have got something.
"Our focus now has to be the Irish Cup, but we want to finish as high up the league as we can and keep supporting our young players."
The Glens handed a debut to midfielder Kym Nelson and it was a real baptism of fire.
Jeffrey didn't need a reminder, but the home faithful taunted him over his imminent exit from the club by singing 'You're sacked and you know you are.'
The first half ended scoreless, but both sides were wondering how.
Glentoran had a wonderful opportunity to break the deadlock seconds before the interval when Stephen McAlorum sent Allen bearing down on goal, but keeper Tuffey raced off his line and produced a stunning save.
Up until then it was the visitors who looked more likely to inflict damage. Ivan Sproule showed lightning speed in the early moments, but his cutback failed to pick out a blue shirt.
Calum Birney headed over from a Jordan Stewart corner, but then the Blues upped a gear. Elliott Morris flicked away Jamie Mulgrew's teasing cross and in the 32nd minute Andy Waterworth skipped past Birney but found the side netting.
Four minutes later Sproule's header from Billy Joe Burns' cross failed to beat Morris. On 38 minutes Linfield came agonisingly close to scoring again when Sproule's shot was pushed out by Morris, the ball struck Birney and headed towards the goal-line, but Jay Magee made the crucial clearance.
The second half exploded into life five minutes after the restart when Linfield took the lead from the penalty spot. Stewart shoved Sean Ward over in the box in a careless challenge, giving Matthew Tipton the opportunity to drill a low spot-kick just inside Morris' right hand post. Nerves of steel in what could be a massive moment in the title race.
Goalscorer Tipton then escaped with a yellow card when he went into a heavy challenge with Allen. The Welshman was substituted seconds later, but the home fans felt he should have been sent off.
In the 74th minute the Blues should have doubled their lead but Waterworth's low drive was deflected to safety by the legs of Morris.
Glentoran's goal continued to lead a charmed life when Waterworth's close range header bounced back off the Glens number one.
The Blues managed to finished the job and apply maximum pressure on Cliftonville who visit Dungannon Swifts today.
Glentoran: Morris, Gordon, Hill, Birney, Magee, McAlorum, Nelson (McGuigan 87 mins), Stewart, O'Hanlon (McCaffrey 74 mins), Allen, Boyd (Miskimmin 81 mins). Subs (not used): Henderson, Addis.
Linfield: Tuffey, Gault, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, BJ Burns, Ward, Tipton (McAllister 70 mins), Mulgrew, Sproule, Quinn. Subs (not used): Carvill, Ross Glendinning, Clarke, Deane.
Referee: Mervyn Smith (Dundonald).