Glentoran 5 – 0 Glenavon
UEFA Conference League Qualification Play-offs, Semi-final
Wednesday 10th May 2023
Glenavon’s UEFA Conference League qualification aspirations disappeared in a goals blizzard as Glentoran hit top form to win 5-0.
Two first-half strikes by Luke McCullough and Conor McMenamin followed by a Robbie Garrett own goal early in the second-half and further efforts by substitutes Jay and Rory Donnelly helped the home side to clinch a Play-off Final place.
The visitors, unbeaten in ten matches, were without defender Calum Birney, influential midfielder Jack Malone and frontmen Conor McCloskey and Jordan Stewart, all injured.
Glentoran took the lead in the third minute when James Singleton’s shot from a corner kick was blocked and after several further goal attempts were repelled, Luke McCullough climbed high to nod the ball past Rory Brown.
The home side might have extended its lead after 15 minutes when Niall McGinn’s penetrating cross from the right eluded several attackers including Junior.
Glenavon’s first attempt on goal did not come until the 23rd minute when Peter Campbell headed over from Matthew Snoddy’s cross.
Six minutes later Isaac Baird, one of the visitors’ best performers, split the Glentoran defence with a fine through pass to Jamie Dornan on the right. The Newry teenager crossed low to Matthew Fitzpatrick but the centre-forward was unable to evade his marker and the chance was gone.
Glentoran extended its lead in the 35th minute. Rhys Marshall found Conor McMenamin with a long pass after a Glenavon attacking set-piece had broken down and the Northern Ireland international turned inside Sean Ward before beating Brown at his near post with a right-foot shot.
Rodney McAree’s side almost made it 3-0 close to the break when Conor Devlin made a clean connection from 12 yards but Rory Brown denied him with a brilliant two-handed save.
Glentoran continued to dominate after half-time. Niall McGinn should have scored when he found himself in oceans of space inside the Glenavon penalty area but shot wildly over.
The third goal arrived in the 53rd minute. McMenamin, a candidate for man-of-the-match, beat Jamie Doran on the right, surged towards goal and pulled the ball back only for Robbie Garrett to force it into his own net under pressure from Junior.
Then followed Glenavon’s best spell of the match. Matthew Fitzpatrick’s shot from 10 yards was deflected wide; Peter Campbell fired past an upright when he perhaps should have scored; and Mick O’Connor’s header cannoned back off a post.
Matthew Fitzpatrick seemed certain to score when Campbell released him but the Belfast man’s shot was blocked. A few minutes later Fitzpatrick headed against a post from another Campbell cross.
Glentoran, after surviving 15 minutes of Glenavon pressure, sealed victory in the 73rd minute, McMenamin broke on the right and delivered a pin-point centre for the onrushing Jay Donnelly to blast the ball past Brown.
Five minutes later Rory Donnelly exchanged passes with his brother Jay before shooting into the net from 10 yards.
All in all, a desperately disappointing night for Glenavon.
GLENTORAN: McCarey, Marshall, McCullough, Kane, Singleton, Burns, Devlin, Wightman, McGinn, Junior, McMenamin, SUBS: Webber (not used), McCartan for McMenamin (80 mins), J. Donnelly for McGinn (68 mins), R Donnelly for Junior (68 mins), Smith for Marshall (75 mins), Crowe for Kane (75 mins) and Purkis (not used).
Goals – Luke McCullough (3 mins), Conor McMenamin (35 mins), Garrett o.g. (53 mins), Jay Donnelly (73 mins), Rory Donnelly (78 mins).
Yellow Cards: Marshall (45’).
GLENAVON: Brown, Snoddy, Wallace, Ward, Rogers, Baird, Garrett, Doran, O’Connor, Campbell, Fitzpatrick, SUBS: Kerr for Snoddy (88 mins), Doyle (not used), Norton (not used), Lynch, Prendergast for O’Connor (74 mins), Atherton for Campbell (88 mins) and Henderson for Garrett (74 mins).
Yellow Cards: O’Connor (15’), Wallace (38’), Snoddy (48’), Garrett (55’), Fitzpatrick (94’).
REFEREE: Tony Clarke.