This week’s featured match involves the team that is currently sitting second in the league, taking on the team that’s sitting second from bottom. After my trip to the Limavady Showgrounds last weekend for Limavady vs Bangor, I am heading to the Premiership, to take in another match at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium as league strugglers Institute play host to title challenger’s Glentoran. Three points here for either side will play a pivotal role in their position at the end of the season, with Institute needing the points to push out of the relegation zone, while Glentoran will want to try and break away from their fellow league challengers.

Back to league action last weekend after mixed cup results

After being knocked out of the Irish Cup by Dungannon Swifts a fortnight ago (my match report from this match can be viewed by clicking here), Institute returned to league action with a much-needed draw against Glenavon, with the match ending 2-2. Despite the draw being seen as a positive from the County Londonderry side, it doesn’t paint the full picture of the match. Stute were 2-0 up away at Mourneview Park, through a penalty from Joe McCready and a brilliant run and finish from recent signing Alex Pomeroy, before letting the lead slip with Glenavon pulling two goals back to end the game level.

Glentoran progressed to the sixth round of the Irish Cup with a penalty win over Portadown, with the Glens facing Queen’s University in the next round, with the students hoping to beat the ‘Big Two’ in the cup this season after getting the better of current Gibson Cup holders Linfield. Last time out they faced bottom of the league Warrenpoint, and much like the Institute vs Glenavon match, it was a day of strong underdog performances. The Point had taken the lead in the 50th minute but had their goalkeeper sent off in the 70th minute and The Glen’s had the lead six minutes later. Luckily for Warrenpoint, this red card has since been rescinded, but how crucial will that defeat be at the end of the season, we will have to wait and see.

Glenavon….no wait Glentoran

It has been a busy transfer window for both sides, with both Sean Connor and Mick McDermott bolstering their squads. Since my last match report on Institute, they have made two further signings Robbie Hume and David Carty. Hume has previously played for Ballinamallard, Limavady United and had a previous stint with Institute. He made his return for Stute in the 83rd minute of the match last week at Mourneview Park. Since that game, Niall Grace has left the club, along with Jamie McIntyre and Jamie Dunne being told that they have no further part to play at the Brandywell.

Glentoran has a feel of the Lurgan Blues at the present time having played their part in the demolition of the Glenavon squad signing Andrew Mitchell and Caolan Marron from the Lurgan Blues. Both these players are eligible to make their debuts from The Glens against Institute. Glentoran sweetened the deal with Glenavon by offloading one of their players to Mourneview Park, with Calum Birney going to the Lurgan Blues. Darren Murray has also joined Carrick Rangers on loan to the end of the season.

Glentoran have also agreed new deals with three of their players. Hrvoje Plum and Marijan Antolović have both agreed deals to extend their stay at the Oval until 2021, while midfielder Chris Gallagher has signed a new deal until 2022.

McCready and McDermott give their thoughts ahead of the game

Institute striker Joe McCready spoke to the Derry Journal ahead of the game, “The Glens are a different kettle of fish this season and their manager has done brilliantly with them, They are unbeaten in something like 15 games, so they are going to come to the Brandywell flying and they’ll come looking for the three points.

Previewing the match, McDermott said, “At Institute last time it was a bit like last week. We had twelve or thirteen good efforts on goal in the second half, but their keeper was outstanding, and we only came away with a draw. That’s why we treat every game and every opponent as a challenge and prepare equally seriously and thoroughly no matter who we’re about to play.”

Five changes together, three debutants for The Glens 

Sean Connor makes two changes in his Institute starting XI for this match. Shaun Leppard and Cormac Burke drop out, with Ryan Morrow and Aiden McCauley replacing them.

Mick McDermott hands out three debuts in his starting XI, Caolan Marron, Keith Cowan and Andrew Mitchell all making their first appearance for The Glens, replacing Connor Pepper, Gavin Peers and Patrick McClean.

Institute Starting XI:


Glentoran Starting XI:


The First Half – Glentoran on their way to the top

Institute started the game in their usual high-intensity style, but this was quickly put to a halt when their goalkeeper Rory Brown went down injured in the opening minute. Luckily for Stute, he was able to continue on and was nearly called into action when a Glentoran cross was delivered from the right-hand side but was blocked and the following shot was high over the crossbar. Glentoran had an injury scare themselves in the third minute of play, Willie Garret went down injured but was able to continue.

Glentoran continued to pile on the pressure winning a corner in the sixth minute of play, but this was cleared by the Stute defence. Institute’s first real chance of the match fell on nine minutes, a free kick taken but cleared only as far a Pomeroy who used a nice bit of skill on the right-hand side before Brogan’s looping ball into the box was caught by Antolović. A minute later Stute had another opportunity on goal, but this time the ball ran on through to the Glentoran keeper.

In the 17th minute of play, McCauley took a quick free-kick for Institute, hitting a lovely ball down the left touchline which was cleared by the Glentoran defence. The resulting throw was wasted by Institute with Joe McCready losing the ball. Institute should have found themselves in the lead through McCauley, after a fantastic ball from Tweed from the right-hand side collecting inside the box by Gareth Brown, before squaring is across to McCauley who couldn’t get it passed the Glentoran keeper from just a few yards out.

Glentoran found themselves in the lead after 19 minutes of play, a long ball over the top of the Stute defence by Chris Gallagher, aided by a Ryan Morrow slip, reached Elvio Van Overbeek. He then hit a cross into the back post, where Navid Nasseri was unmarked and managed to squeeze the ball into the back of the net to put the Glens 1-0 up.

Glentoran’s new signing Andrew Mitchell had an attempt on goal in the 21st minute of play, with his shot going high and wide. Five minutes later it was Institute’s turn to have a shot on goal, with McCauley’s shot from distance going wide of the left-hand post. Nasseri continued to put in a skilful performance, having a shot on goal but Brown was equal to it in the Stute goal, getting down well at his right-hand post.

Institute really came into the game for about five minutes, starting on the half-hour mark with a free-kick from the left-hand side of the pitch being cleared by The Glen’s defence for a corner. This resulting corner came to nothing for Stute, being cleared, before receiving a free kick on the far side of the pitch, which again was cleared by the Glentoran defence. Institute then had what potentially looked like their brightest attack of the half take away from them after the referee stopped the game for an injury which occurred on the halfway line at the far side of the pitch, this was not a head injury and Glentoran were able to win the ball back and avoid having to deal with the promising Stute attack.

After a bad tackle on Gareth Brown, Glentoran were able to counter from the Stute free-kick, with Chris Gallagher hitting a shot from just outside the box over the bar. Debutant Marron impressed in the first half for the Belfast side, hitting a great cross into the box, but a demanding Brown was equal to it.

Glentoran made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute of the game thanks to debutant Keith Cowan. This goal came from The Glen’s receiving a free-kick after a bad challenge from Institute on one of the Glentoran players. Plum then hit a shot on goal, swerving from right to left around the wall away from goal, with Brown only able to parry the shot into the danger area, were Cowan broke free from the Stute defence to tap in the ball with the slightest of touches to open his account for the league leaders at this stage of the match.

After Glentoran had gone two goals in the lead, Institute started putting the pressure of the Glentoran backline, but to no great avail. The fourth officiation indicated that there would be a minimum of one minute of added time, and the end of that minute brought an end to an entertaining 45 minutes of football. The score at half-time at the Ryan McBride Brandywell was Institute 0 Glentoran 2.

Half Time Thoughts – It should have been 2-1

Glentoran were the better side for the vast majority of the first half, creating plenty of opportunities as well as scoring two crucial goals. Institute played decently but could have played so much better. Institute should have been in the lead, but a lack of quality upfront found the hosts 2-0 down at the break.

The standout performer in the first half was Glentoran’s right back Marron. For his debut performance, he took control of the right-hand side of the pitch and was the most vocal player in the team. Nasseri also put a strong shift in midfield for The Glen’s, scoring and making some very impressive driving runs into the box. For Institute, Alex Pomeroy looked the most likely to make an impact for Stute, with Aiden McCauley also putting in some strong but fair challenges in the middle of the park.

The Second Half – Glentoran go into cruise control, while Institute start to rue missed chances

The second half took a few minutes to really get going, with the first real action of the half falling for Glentoran when Robbie McDaid cross the ball in the box, with nobody on the end of it and the ball floating past the left-hand post. Glentoran then continued to pile on the pressure from the first half with a free-kick being deflected over on 48 minutes. The resulting corner was like a game of pinball, which is becoming a theme at the Brandywell, before being cleared by the Stute defence, but only as far as Mitchell, whose shot went high and wide over the bar.

Institute’s first chance of the second half fell to Gareth Brown who hit a cross that turned out to be a shot, going just over the left corner of the net. In the same minute of the game, goal-scorer Cowan received a yellow card for a foul, with the resulting Stute free-kick going out for a corner. Glentoran then played a great ball down the left-hand side of the pitch, with Nasseri’s resulting shot going wide of the target.

Institute had the ball in the net on 57 minutes, but the flag was up for offside, despite this, the Stute fans did let out a sarcastic cheer, especially with the lack of goals at the Brandywell for the hosts recently. Institute made the first substation of the game just before the hour mark, with Ahu Obhakhan replacing Joe McCready for his second appearance and his home debut for Stute. He made an instant impact, making a run to the far post as a low Pomeroy ball was just out of reach for the former UDC Torredonjimeno striker. This was another chance for Institute that they would soon start to regret not taking.

There were two yellow cards inside a minute with both Pomeroy for Institute, and Plum for Glentoran being booked by Robert Hennessey. There were changes for both sides in the 68th minute, David Carty replacing McCauley to make his Institute debut, and Van Overbeek being replaced by Paul O’Neill for Glentoran. O’Neill made a quick impact making a run towards goal but was called offside. The Glens then made another change with 20 minutes to go, Ciaran O’Connor coming on to replace the goal-scorer Nasseri.

The loud Glentoran away support thought they had witnessed their side increase their lead in the 71st minute, only for the ball to hit the side netting. Institute made their second change three minutes later, with Cormac Burke coming on to the pitch replacing Evan Tweed. The goal was at a dull slow pace for the next ten minutes or so, with only a Glentoran free-kick going wide to note during this period.

Institute started to hopelessly pump the ball forward, and Glentoran happily gathered the ball each time but didn’t put much pressure on the Stute defence themselves. McDaid came to life in the closing stages of the half, first getting booked for a high challenge, followed by forcing a save from Brown after heading the ball towards the top right corner of the net. The fourth official then indicated that there would be a minimum of three minutes of added time.

These three minutes were probably the most exciting minutes of the half. Mitchell had been flagged offside for the away side after being through on goal. McDaid had a shot from the right-hand side of the box saved by Brown at his near post, and Brown also managed to stop the ball going into the top right corner, with the referees whistle bringing the game to an end and sending Glentoran top of the league.

Full-Time Thoughts – Glentoran show why they are top of the league

Glentoran fans would agree with me when I say that this wasn’t their best performance of the season so far, but it may be their most crucial. Their fellow title challengers had slipped up and this meant capitalising on that gives them breathing space at the top of the league. Glentoran are now 15 games undefeated in a row, with six wins on the bounce. This performance was one of champion’s material, not because of the quality, but because they managed to grind out the victory, take their chances when they fell and stayed strong at the back.

Institute had two major chances in the game, and if they had of been put away, they would be happy with taking a point of one of the top six. Stute showed glimpses of class, but these were rare. They looked like they had improved their tactical shape since the Irish Cup tie, and things are looking better for the side second from bottom in the league, despite losing this game. One thing to note was the defence that Stute played. Ryan Morrow played at left-back, instead of his usual right-back spot, and Colm McLaughlin played at the heart of the defence instead of his left-back, left midfielder role which he more comfortable in.

Man of the Match – Navid Nasseri

A goal and a handful for the Stute defence, Nasserri showed his class against Institute and I wouldn’t be surprised if some big clubs across Europe are keeping an eye on him. He took his goal well, slotting it past Brown to give The Glen’s the lead. This goal really sparked him into life, with multiple driving runs into the Stute box, creating chances out of very little.

There were three other contenders for my man of the match. Van Overbeek, who showed his quality on the right-hand side, hitting some quality crosses into the box. Marron who linked up well with Van Overbeek and put in a solid defensive debut performance for The Glens. Along with Ryan Morrow who played at left-back, despite being a right-back, had a solid game and made some quality runs through the middle of the park, helping to create chances for Stute.

Player Ratings – Stute defence play well despite conceding two, while Glentoran attack proves too strong

Institute: R Brown 7, Brogan 7, Curry 7, McLaughlin 6, Morrow 8, Tweed 6, Crown 6, McCauley 6, G Brown 6, Pomeroy 7, McCready 6.

Glentoran: Antolović 6, Marron 8, Cowan 8, Garrett 7, Kane 6, Gallagher 7, Plum 7, Nasseri 8, Van Overbeek 8, McDaid 7, Mitchell 7.

Managers Reaction – Connor speaks of disappointment, while McDermott thinks Glens could have played better

Institute manager Sean Connor spoke of his disappointment of the defeat, “I’m disappointed to lose the game but I’m a bit buoyed by the performance. I thought their first goal had a bit of fortune. I was more disappointed about the second goal because it was a cheap free-kick to give away and we didn’t react to the second ball. They managed the game well, but I don’t think it ever really opened up.”

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott spoke of how his team could have played better, “We are delighted with the three points, but the overall performance could have been better for us. We are good enough to compete for the title but all of those top five teams have a shot at it and we want to be in the mix.”

Looking ahead – Landlords vs tenants for Stute, while Glens aim to stay top of the league

Institute face their Brandywell landlords Derry City in a friendly on Tuesday night at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium before taking on newfound rivals Dungannon Swifts in the league on Saturday.

Glentoran face a trip to a trip away to a Larne side that have yet to win a game since the turn of the decade. This game is a later kick-off, with the game starting at 5:30 pm. The Institute friendly against Derry City is a 7:45 pm kick off with the game against Swifts kicking off at the normal 3 pm slot.