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Conor McMenamin key again as Glentoran pile misery on Linfield with another Big Two win

Glentoran 3-1 Linfield

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Goal-scorers Conor McMenamin and Rhys Marshall celebrate with assistant manager Paul Millar.

Goal-scorers Conor McMenamin and Rhys Marshall celebrate with assistant manager Paul Millar.

Goal-scorers Conor McMenamin and Rhys Marshall celebrate with assistant manager Paul Millar.

Mick McDermott's Glentoran tonight grabbed their second win over Big Two rivals Linfield in seven days to blow the Danske Bank Premiership title race wide open.

Goals from Jay Donnelly, new big-money signing Conor McMenamin and Rhys Marshall made it another miserable night for the champions, who replied through a first-half Stephen Fallon strike.

Last week, the Glens claimed their first league win at Windsor Park since 2014 - and they piled on the misery once again as David Healy's title holders wilted.

Healy admitted he still had horrible nightmares from his last visit to east Belfast. That was back on Boxing Day 2019 when his boys suffered a thumping 3-0 defeat. This loss will only prolong that agony.

McDermott's team approached the match in the best possible shape, having won their previous four games. Although they still trail the Blues by nine points, if they win their two games in hand they will be right back in the title race.

McDermott made four changes to the team that pocketed all three points at Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, bringing in Chris Gallagher, Caolan Marron, Hrvoje Plum and Jay Donnelly, who was in for the injured Robbie McDaid.

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Following their impressive victory over title challengers Larne, Healy named an unchanged Linfield side.

It was the Blues who stormed from the blocks with Jamie Mulgrew sending Shayne Lavery charging into the box and, when he drilled in a low shot from a narrow angle, Dayle Coleing did well to paw clear.

Seconds later it was Fallon who was gifted time and space on the right. He also drove the ball into the box, but it was mopped up by Paddy McClean.

Incredibly, the Glens were pulled apart once again on the right with Lavery's pace causing problems. When he sent in another teasing low cross, defender Luke McCullough somehow managed to scoop the ball over his own crossbar.

After surviving that early surge, the Glens forged into the lead on nine minutes. McClean's raking 40-yard pass picked out McMenamin on the left. When he found Jay Donnelly at the back post, the in-form striker lashed past a startled Chris Johns.

The Glens almost did it again in the next attack. Johns' poor clearance was gobbled up by Plum and after holding off the challenge of Conor Pepper, his low drive was impressively beaten out by the relieved shot-stopper.

Linfield had another let-off midway through the half which could have embarrassed Johns. He was beaten in a race to the ball by Glens skipper Marcus Kane, who could only lob his effort wide from a narrow angle.

McDermott's boys struck again on 33 minutes - a goal that will give the Linfield defence nightmares. McClean's punt from his own half was flicked on by Jay Donnelly for his brother Ruaidhri, who managed to muscle out Jimmy Callacher.

Although Johns saved the striker's shot, the ball broke kindly for McMenamin, who rammed home from the edge of the box.

But the champions were back in it seconds before the break. McClean hauled down the fast-raiding Pepper 20 yards out and though Kirk Millar's low free-kick was beaten out by Coleing, Fallon followed up to tuck home the rebound.

The Blues again looked lively after the restart, with Joel Cooper turning McClean inside out before firing in a low drive that was shovelled away at the base of the post by Coleing.

But the Glens took a stranglehold on the game on 63 minutes with Marshall's persistence paying a huge dividend.

McMenamin's cross was unconvincingly punched clear by Johns only to Marshall, whose initial shot was saved by the over-worked goalkeeper, but when the ex-Shamrock Rovers man latched onto the rebound, he made no mistake.

The Glens were unlucky not to hit a fourth following an energy-sapping 60-yard dash by McMenamin, who saw his shot saved by Johns.

GLENTORAN: Coleing, Marron, McCullough, McClean, Kane, Marshall, Gallagher, Plum, R Donnelly (Stewart 86), J Donnelly (McDonagh 79), McMenamin.

Unused subs: Brown, Bigirimana, Gorman, O'Connor, Crowe.

LINFIELD: Johns, Pepper, Haughey (Larkin 46), Callacher, Clarke, Millar (Waterworth 69), Mulgrew, Fallon, McClean (Stewart 69), Cooper, Lavery.

Unused subs: Moore, Nasseri, Quinn, Palmer.

Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).

Man of the Match: Conor McMenamin.

Match rating: 7/10


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