'No stupid talk': Glentoran boss refusing to get caught up in title chase after big Boxing Day win over Linfield
Glentoran blasted their way right into the Danske Bank Premiership mix with a Boxing Day win over Linfield – but manager Mick McDermott was having none of it.
The East Belfast boys roared to an impressive 3-0 victory over their cross-town rivals at the Oval and are now on the tails of new leaders Cliftonville.
In front of a sellout crowd, the Boxing Day shootout lived up to all expectations. Elvio Van Overbeek audaciously shot the Glens into an early lead, but it two a double blast from summer Croatian signing Hrvoje Plum to ease the home supporters’ nerves.
What a difference a year makes. This time 12 months ago McDermott’s team approached the traditional shoot out on the back of a seven-game winless run.
When they arrived at their East Belfast base yesterday, they were protecting a 10-match undefeated sequence of results – and they did it with a swagger.
But McDermott was keen to keep his players’ feet on the ground and was quick to shrug off their unbeaten run of results.
“It’s one in a row,” said McDermott. “That’s what I tell the players. I don’t care how many games it is, I tell the players, it’s one in a row. There will be no stupid talk in our dressing room – not a chance.
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“I reminded the boys before the game, our aim from the outset (the beginning of the season) was to be competitive, make teams worry about playing Glentoran and make teams suffer at the Oval.
“These boys didn’t go out with an attitude because it was Linfield . . . they approach every game the same.
“They work hard, they are disciplined, and they go out on to the pitch in the frame of mind they have to do better. And, it paid dividends, because none of them were overawed by the big occasion.”
There was a lovely touch by both sets of fans, players and officials, stood for a one minute applause in memory of Glentoran defender Marcus Kane’s baby son who sadly passed away last week.
The Glens got off to that dream start with Overbeek’s seventh minute party piece.
Patrick McClean’s monster throw in from the left was flicked on by Gavin Peers for Navid Nasseri, whose scuffed shot landed on the boot of Van Overbeek and his cheeky little back heel left Rohan Ferguson helpless – eat your heart out Mo Salah!
Healy’s boys were almost level five minutes later. Matty Clarke’s in-swinging corner kick landed on the head of defender Jimmy Callacher, whose effort was hoofed off the line by the alert Connor Pepper.
The Blues began to dominate as the game progressed. Joel Cooper took off on a mazy solo run on the right, leaving McClean hopeless in his wake, before testing Marijan Antolovic with a swerving low shot that the big goalkeeper did well to shovel clear.
Then, seconds later, Jordan Stewart whipped in a teasing cross from the right which was met by Andy Waterworth, but his flick header fizzed inches past the post.
The Blues threatened again seconds before the break. Bastien Hery’s corner kick was fumbled by Antolovic which caused chaos in the Glentoran six-yard box and, when Haughey made a yard of space for himself, he could only screw his shot over the crossbar.
Linfield carried on where they left off after the restart.
Waterworth had a low shot flash into the midriff of Antolovic before a lightning break involving Hery and Cooper resulted in Fallon curling a low drive just past the post.
And, they were only inches away from an equaliser on 67 minutes. Another corner kick from Clarke caused mayhem in the Glentoran defence and, when the ball broke to Stewart on the edge of the box, his low drive clipped the outside of the post.
But the Glens, could have been out of sight on 70 minutes when Willie Garrett met an Hrvoje Plum free kick only to see his thumping header saved by Ferguson after Cameron Stewart had been flattened by a clumsy challenge by Josh Robbinson.
The Blues fans thought they were back on level terms on 72 minutes when Waterworth powered home a great cross from Cooper only for referee Ian McNabb to rule out the goal because of an offside infringement.
But it was the home fans that were jumping with joy again 14 minutes from time with that Plum special. He robbed Fallon in centre circle and after a piercing 20-yard dash, he drilled an unstoppable low shot past Ferguson.
And, the Glens were out of sight six minutes from time. Robinson needlessly hauled down Plum inside the box and referee McNabb has no hesitation awarding the penalty kick.
Plum was precise from the spot.
Blues boss David Healy admitted he was pleased with his team’s performance, stating, ‘the difference was Glentoran took their chances, his boys didn’t’.
“I certainly didn’t see that result coming with the performance we had,” he said. “For me, we were the better team. We conceded a soft goal early on, but we restricted them after that . . . they hadn’t too many more opportunities.
“Stephen Fallon was fouled in the middle of the pitch for their second goal and that was the killer. The referee blew up four all the little niggly fouls, but he let that one goa, which was a crucial moment in the game.”
GLENTORAN: Antolovic, Garrett, Peers, Gallagher, McDaid, Stewart (Frazer 87), McClean, Pepper, Nasseri (Crowe 79), Plum, Overbeek (O’Neill 79).
Unused subs: Morris, Birney, Frazer, Herron, Murray, Crowe, O;Neill.
LINFIELD: Ferguson, Robinson, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart (Shevlin 79, Clarke (Kearns 79), Fallon, Hery (Lavery 61), Mulgrew.
Unused subs: Moore, Shevlin, Kearns, McGivern, Mitchell, Casement.
REFEREE: Ian McNabb.
Man of the match: Gavin Peers.
Match rating: 8/10.
Belfast Telegraph Digital