Glentoran stun Glenavon to reach play-off final
Darren Murray’s glorious double last night helped Glentoran book a place in the money-spinning European play-off final!
Mick McDermott’s East Belfast side produced a sensational display to win 4-2 – they are now unbeaten in six starts under the new boss.
Murray was the tormentor in chief, with Curtis Allen and Robbie McDaid making it at miserable night for Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon, who finished a whopping 21 points ahead of the Glens in the Danske Bank Premiership table.
Gutsy Glenavon hit back through Caolan Marron – his first goal for the club – and Andy Mitchell, but it was no stopping McDermott’s impressive side who will now face Cliftonville in Saturday’s lucrative decider.
After the early sparring, it was the home team who almost landed the opening blow when Stephen Murray headed wide of the post following a great build up involving Eoin Wearen and Josh Daniels.
The big striker threatened again when the impressive Josh Daniels produced an almost inch perfect 40-yard pass that zipped away from Murray, who made a great dash through the middle.
But it was the big visiting support who were celebrating on 27 minutes after Murray’s opener – his 11th goal of the season.
Midfielder Chris Gallagher picked out the unmarked Curtis Allen on the right and, when the striker whipped in the devilish of crosses, the big Portadown man did the rest with the quick flick of the head.
Now playing with a confidence and a swagger, the Glens almost did it again when Gallagher’s free kick fell at the feet of Allen, but goalkeeper Johnny Tuffey was out in a flash to save.
Glenavon came back off the ropes to threaten at the other end with Murray curling another decent chance wide of the post following an audacious flick from Robert Garrett.
Now growing more in the game, striker Andy Mitchell tried with luck with a 20-yard free kick that fizzed inches over the top after the lively Eoin Wearen was hauled down by Willie Garrett.
With the half-time clock ticking down, the home team were back on level terms, but the goal will give midfielder Conor Pepper nightmares.
The diminutive Scot needlessly conceded a free kick for a blatant shove on Daniels wide on the right. When Conor McCloskey whipped in a free kick it was cleared to Marron, some 35 yards out and his low drive thundered through a posse of legs and into the bottom corner.
Glentoran regained the lead merely two minutes after the interval when Allen tried his luck with an audacious effort from the edge of the box that simply torpedoed into the top corner.
Again, the Lurgan Blues came battling back and were level on 54 minutes with another goal of the season contender.
Mitchell stepped up to thunder an astonishing 20-yard free kick past Nelson after Murray was hauled down by Gavin Peers. The Glentoran defender was fortunate referee Lee Tavinder decided to flash a yellow card in his direction instead of red.
Incredibly, 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 goal – it was another cracker.
He turned Seamus Sharkey on the half-way line and, after a 40-yard solo dash, he produced the most marvellous of finishes, dinking the ball over a stranded Tuffey.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marron, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell, McCloskey (Hamilton 75), Murray (Jenkins 75), Singleton, Garrett, Warren, Sharkey (Hall 82).
Unused subs: Doyle, Harmon, Larmour, Norton
GLENTORAN: Nelson, Garrett, Kane, Peers, Gallagher, Herron (Gordon 92), Allen, McDaid, Kerr, Pepper (Birney 78), Murray (O’Neill 89).
Unused subs: McMahon, Gwiazda, McLaughlin, Glover.
REFEREE: Lee Tavinder.