Belfast Telegraph

Hot Murray doubles up to earn Glens a final chapter

Glenavon 2 Glentoran 4

Top stuff: Darren Murray celebrates
Top stuff: Darren Murray celebrates

By Alex Mills

New boss Mick McDermott has managed to transform Glentoran's season - his team are now just 90 minutes away from a financial bonanza.

The east Belfast boys last night defeated favourites Glenavon in a sensational European play-off at Mourneview Park to earn them a winner-takes-all shoot-out with Cliftonville on Saturday.

It was a night of high drama in Lurgan, the pendulum swinging one way then the other.

Darren Murray's brilliant double had the big away support dancing with joy, with Curtis Allen and Robbie McDaid also getting in on the scoring stakes.

Glenavon hit back through Caolan Marron - his first for the club - and Andy Mitchell, but it was Glentoran's night.

The Glens approached the game unbeaten in five starts since McDermott's appointment.

And the Belfast team were also boosted by the fact that they have lost only once in their last 10 league visits to the venue and are unbeaten there since 2015.

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It was the home team that had the first sniff on seven minutes. Eoin Wearen and Josh Daniels carved open the Glens defence on the left and when the little winger zipped in a great cross, Stephen Murray could only direct his header wide.

And, after an ugly bout of sparring in which both sides hardly laid a glove on each other, Daniels almost produced a wonder ball - a raking 40-yard pass that was only inches away from the boot of Murray.

But it was the away fans who were celebrating on 27 minutes following that Murray strike.

Chris Gallagher made a surging dash through the middle before picking out Allen. The striker delivered the most delicious of crosses which was met by the big former Portadown man and his glancing header left Johnny Tuffey groping air.

The Glens almost did it again four minutes later. McDaid was hauled down after a desperate lunge by Seamus Sharkey, which earned the big defender a booking. Gallagher stepped up to drill in a vicious low free-kick that ping-ponged about the box before falling for Allen, but Tuffey was out like a flash to save.

Glenavon attempted to repair the damage and were only inches away from an equaliser 10 minutes before the break. A cute flick by Robbie Garrett and a nice lay-off from Wearen presented Murray with a chance, but he could only curl his shot wide.

And they were out of luck again when Mitchell's 20-yard free-kick flashed inches over.

With the half-time clock ticking down, the home team were back on level terms, but the goal will give midfielder Conor Pepper nightmares.

He needlessly conceded a free-kick for a blatant shove on Daniels. When Conor McCloskey whipped it in, it was cleared to Marron some 35 yards out and his low drive thundered into the bottom corner.

The Glens were back in front two minutes after the break - and what a strike from Allen. He simply took pot luck from the edge of the box and the ball thundered into the top corner.

Glenavon were level on 54 minutes. The home fans were calling for a red card when defender Gavin Peers tripped the galloping Murray. Referee Lee Tavinder instead pulled out a yellow, but Mitchell stepped up to drill in an astonishing free-kick.

The lead lasted less than 60 seconds. Garrett's woeful back pass was picked up by McDaid who walked past a stranded Tuffey to plant the ball in to the bottom corner - sensational.

Murray put the icing on the cake 14 minutes from time with his second. He turned Sharkey on halfway and, after a 40-yard solo dash, dinked over the onrushing Tuffey.

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