Glentoran moved to second in the Carling Premiership table last night with an efficient 2-0 victory at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Goals from Richard Clarke and David Howland capped an impressive second half display from the Glens, who now sit above Crusaders on goal difference.
In the first half, Glentoran weren’t quite as clinical as both sides enjoyed periods of much possession, but the cutting edge wouldn’t have matched that of a butter knife with neither side finding their way through the other’s defence.
The Sky Blues’ best chance of the half came thanks to a mistake by the usually composed Colin Nixon. The experienced centre-half miscued a header and inadvertently played in Gary McCutcheon whose shot was well saved by Elliot Morris.
The Glentoran stopper, who was evidently still struggling with his knee injury, also had to be on hand to stop McCutcheon’s early free-kick, pushing the shot away from goal.
On 40 minutes, the keeper was protected by defender Sean Ward who did well to block Eamon Murray’s half-volley.
Peter Steele blasted over from close range early on before Ryan Brown did well to save Daryl Fordyce’s header.
The visitors got their breakthrough on 63 minutes. It came via Clarke who volleyed neatly into the bottom corner after Leeman’s header from Howland’s corner was partially cleared.
Eamon Murray had threatened to give United the lead soon after the break but his strong effort was parried away by Morris and the Glens weren’t slow to capitalise.
It could even have been 2-0 on 75 minutes but Andrew Waterworth’s tight angled shot was well stopped after he had burst past Albert Watson. The Glens went closer to the equaliser soon after when Waterworth’s dipping effort smashed off the crossbar from 25 yards.
And as time ticked on, there was only one team pushing for the second. First Howland seized on a loose pass from Gavin Taggart but Morris stopped his weak effort before Daryl Fordyce rifled an effort over the bar.
The Glens couldn’t be held out though and got the clincher on 90 minutes. Substitute Neal Gawley burst to the by-line before cutting the ball back to David Howland who kept his composure to fire home and put the three points beyond any doubt.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Brown, M Smith, Gage, Colligan, Albert Watson, Haveron (Young 66), Surgenor, McCafferty (Taggart 80), Murray, A. Smith (Boyd 56), McCutcheon.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Ward, Nixon, Leeman, Hill, Steele (Gawley 87), Clarke, McGovern, Howland, Fordyce, Waterworth.
Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey)