Larne ..... (0)2 ..... Glentoran ..... (0)1
Substitute Lee Lynch was the hero of the hour for Larne, his late, wind-assisted rocket arrowing into the net to confirm a deserved victory over league-leading Glentoran.
It’s the third time this season the side from east Antrim has beaten the Glens who were ‘just not quite on it’ last night.
Indeed the margin of victory could have been even greater in the end as Larne deploying the conditions better, threatened more goals after Lynch’s 86th minute strike. They also hit the woodwork on three occasions.
With McCarey working overtime to keep his side in the game, denying Lynch who should have had a second, producing a brilliant double save from Scott and Lynch, then yet another from Scott, Larne could’ve been out of sight at the death.
Instead there was one desperate, last almighty scramble in their own goal area during which Glentoran threatened to steal a point that frankly wouldn’t have been deserved.
The league race will now tighten up once again with Linfield expected to regain top spot by defeating Portadown this afternoon. Cliftonville could already have closed the gap last evening had their meeting with Dungannon not fallen foul of the weather.
It was simply Larne’s night as they stimulated another title twist and yet again bounced back after spell of indifferent results. The presence of Lee Bonis up front has made a difference, but they really must find the route to increased consistency.
The first-half was one best forgotten as the sides sparred, and sparred, then sparred again, cancelling one another out. The one real chance of note fell to Bonis who could only head Doherty’s low cross onto the bar, with the Glentoran defence not in touching distance.
And it was right after the restart when things opened up to produce an exhilarating second-half. Again Doherty was the provider and Bonis the target. But Paddy McClean met the ball first, was unable to untangle his feet and his contact sent the ball tamely into the net past his goalkeeper.
Randall then blazed over from 22 yards on 51 before, two minutes later, Glentoran made a triple change, including O’Connor’s replacement of top-scorer Jay Donnelly. Service to Donnelly, without a goal in four games now, had been particularly poor throughout.
O’Connor made a difference, and you wonder when they might deploy him as a twin-spearhead partnering ‘The Striker’.
The impetus shifted. Glentoran found more urgency with McMenamin, a source of discomfort for Balmer all evening, the main source of danger.
Within a five minute period first Bolger was carded for a heavy challenge on the winger, then Balmer for a cynical block, as McMenamin prepared to advance.
There was nothing Balmer could do however on 72 mins as McMenamin turned the full-back again, reached the byeline and fizzed across for Ruadhri Donnelly to glance wide of Devlin and into the net.
Glentoran, their fans becoming louder, threatened briefly to kick-on, but it was Larne who regained the initiative over the last ten minutes, Lynch’s rocket, amongst several other opportunities, proving decisive.
The Inver-men despite recent reverses, have a better look about them, certainly in the big games since the introduction of Bonis. The fee looks like money well spent. The young forward has transformed a side which too often appeared punchless up top.
His inclusion allows McDaid to play slightly deeper and others like Scott, a substitute last night, and Doherty have added confidence. Doherty in particular looks rejuvenated. The wide man took a while to settle after his move from Coleraine, but he’s now showing the form which attracted Tiernan Lynch.
It was a costly evening for Glentoran. Not only three points dropped, captain Marcus Kane just back from lengthy injury, broke down again and they lost the impressive Rhys Marshall, Bonis being extremely lucky to escape censure for a poor challenge.
The Kane injury looks serious and they will have to wait for the synopsis on Marshall who looked in discomfort leaving the pitch.
It was also McClean’s last game before suspension, and all of a sudden the Oval men’s burgeoning squad looks desperately short of defensive cover.
Yet another example of how things can change in this ever twisting title race.
Larne: Devlin - Balmer, Watson, Bolger, Hughes - Sule, Herron, Randall (Lynch 69), Doherty (Hale 88) - McDaid (Scott 69) - Bonis
Unused subs: Ferguson, Kelly, Nasseri, Jarvis
Glentoran: McCarey - Marshall (Garrett 68), McClean, Marron, Kane (Burns 38) - Murray (McCartan 53), Clucas, McMenamin, Plum - J Donnelly (O’Connor 53), McDaid (R Donnelly 53),
Unused subs: Cushnie, Glendinning
Referee: Tony Clarke