Novo fighting fit and ready to blast Glens up the table
Glentoran 2 Cliftonville 1
Nacho Novo finally announced himself on the Irish League stage by breaking his Danske Bank Premiership scoring duck — and he insists there are more to come.
The 37-year-old striker bagged his first league goal since joining Glentoran in the summer, which was the catalyst of his team’s priceless win over shell-shocked Cliftonville at the Oval.
Gerard Lyttle’s Reds totally bossed the first half, but had only a Jay Donnelly strike to celebrate, expertly executed five minutes before the break.
Novo, whose only other strike was a consolation against Annagh United in the League Cup, had the sides level within two minutes of the restart — a trademark volley that ripped under the body of Peter Burke —before big Steven Gordon then popped up with a late winner, heading in a Johnny Addis cross.
Novo, the former Rangers favourite, has consumed a fair amount of criticism since moving to the east Belfast club, but this was by far his best performance.
With number one striker Curtis Allen recovering from a mouth operation to repair an abscess, the little Spaniard was given his chance — and he didn’t disappoint.
“I was delighted with the goal,” he said. “I haven’t played much in recent weeks, but I knew I had to be ready when the chance arrived. If you keep working hard in training, you’ll get your rewards.
“I’m now much fitter than I was, which was my biggest problem since I joined the club. I’ve had a few little injuries, but since Gary (Haveron) arrived last month, I’m really enjoying it and my fitness levels have improved greatly. It’s hard work, but I enjoy it, so that’s the difference. His training methods are good. We are all benefiting. I think you can see that we are playing with a higher tempo. It was evident in the second half. It’s a relief to get off the mark, hopefully that’s me started.”
Novo has taken some time to win over the Glentoran faithful, but they gave him a great ovation when he was replaced by Marcus Kane late on.
“This is a massive club and it was great to see the fans with smiles on their faces when we came off the pitch at the end,” added Novo, who was at Hampden Park yesterday to see his former team lose to Celtic in the League Cup semi-final.
“It showed what the victory meant to them. They gave us great backing, especially in the second half and that gets through to the players on the pitch. You can’t beat that.
“We’ve now won two games in a row, something that hasn’t happened this season. We have got to build on that, but we’ll take one game at a time.”
Novo intends to make it is as hard as possible for Haveron to leave him out of the starting line-up and added: “I need to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens. It’s good to have competition for places. I just want to keep doing my best for the team.”
Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle admitted his team self-destructed in the second half.
He said: “We totally dominated the first half, but the game is over 90 minutes and we just didn’t come out after the break — 45 is not good enough.
“Glentoran got an early goal which lifted them and the crowd. It made us a little bit nervy. We were complacent. It just wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t acceptable and the boys know that.
“It’s frustrating knowing we should have had the game dead and buried in the first half, but end up getting nothing out of it.”
GLENTORAN: Morris, Caldwell (Smith, 62 mins), Novo (Kane, 71 mins), Lavery, Foley, Harmon, McAuley, Addis, Gordon, Redman, Ferrin. Unused subs: Nelson, Cafolla, Leu.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, McGovern, Ives, McGuiness, Knowles, M Donnelly (Garrett, 77 mins), Hughes (McDaid, 60 mins), Harkin, Winchester (Curran, 54 mins), J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Unused subs: Bonner, Catney.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)
Man of the match: Aaron Harmon
Match rating: 7/10