Peter Wilson reports from Inver Park
Patrick McClean’s late winner was enough to give Glentoran a narrow 3-2 win over Larne on a dramatic and pulsating night at Inver Park.
An early Mark Randall free-kick was cancelled out by a Paul O’Neill equaliser before the striker added another only two minutes later. Despite Sean Graham levelling for the hosts, it was McClean who was the hero for the east Belfast side as he struck late on.
The Invermen took the lead with only four minutes on the clock as after Marty Donnelly was fouled by McClean, Randall provided a lovely finish from the resulting free-kick as the ball flew past Marijan Antolovic to nestle right into the top corner.
Harry Flowers pulled off a well-timed intervention to shut down Navid Nasseri as he was in through on goal on 18 minutes.
Only a minute later, the Glens pulled themselves back onto level terms with Larne; Conor Pepper’s long-throw caused the Larne back three some problems before O’Neill tucked in at the back post with his right foot to make it 1-1.
It was two minutes after that Glentoran took the lead for the first time: after a huge penalty appeal was waved away from Andrew Davey at one end, Glentoran broke down the pitch with O’Neill probing at the Larne defence before picking up a loose ball to fire home at the other.
The home side had a great opportunity to equalise before half time as Mark Randall lofted the ball over the defence to David McDaid but the striker’s touch was smothered by Antolovic.
On 55 minutes, Larne at last equalised as Tomas Cosgrove on the right squared the ball into McDaid, who pulled the ball back to tee up Sean Graham and he put it away.
With 58 minutes gone, a rasping 30 yard drive from Randall produced a fine stop from Antolovic.
Shortly after the hour mark, both sides had decent chances at either end: a drive from 45 yards by McClean forced a top save from Conor Devlin before at the opposite end, McDaid burst down the left flank with his low drive inside the box was parried away by Antolovic with Donnelly’s attempted follow-up was blocked by Chris Gallagher for a corner.
On 80 minutes, Cosgrove neatly played in Donnelly from the right but the Glens keeper did well to push is close-range drive away.
With seven minutes left of normal time, Hrvoje Plum’s free-kick was knocked down by Cameron Stewart to McClean who took a touch on his chest and beat Devlin with a stunning overhead kick.
In the third minute of six of stoppage time, a good delivery into the box from Donnelly was met by McMurray’s head with Antolovic at full stretch to tip it over.
This game certainly lived up to the billing, turning into a five-goal thriller, but it’s Glentoran who travelled back to east Belfast with all three points.
Larne: Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Kelly, Watson (c) (McEleney 76), Sule, Randall, McDaid, Donnelly, Graham (McKendry 87), Cosgrove, McMurray
Unused Subs: Mitchell, Ramsey, Tilney, Lynch, Gilmour
Glentoran: Antolovic, Kane (c), Peers, Gallagher, McDaid, McClean, Pepper, Nasseri (Herron 58), O’Neill (Stewart 69), Plum, Van Overbeek
Unused subs: Morris, Garrett, Frazer, Murray, Crowe
Man of the Match: Fuad Sule
Referee: Andrew Davey
Photo: Bill Guiller