A glorious double strike from Curtis Allen last night earned Glentoran a much-craved victory against Dungannon Swifts at the Oval.
The fallen East Belfast giants produced possibly their best performance in front of their home fans in what was an otherwise totally forgettable campaign.
Unfortunately, it ended in a sour note for Allen, who was dismissed three minutes from time following a clash with Swifts’ midfielder Seanan Clusas. In fact, every player on the pitch was involved in a free-for-all, giving rookie referee Shane Andrews a nightmare.
James Ferrin and John McGuigan also got in on the scoring stakes, which guarantees the Glens a seventh-place finish in the Danske Bank Premiership table, earning them a slot in the end-of-season European qualifiers.
Daniel Hughes and Chris Hegarty did reply for the Swifts, but they were well beaten in the end.
Ironically, Swifts boss Rodney McAree turned down the chance of moving in to the manager’s chair at the Oval – he may be having second thoughts after this.
The home team had a let-off after only nine minutes when the lively Daniel Hughes burst into the box before unleashing a low drive that Elliott Morris did well to push clear.
When the rebound fell for Mark Patton, he could only hoof his shot wildly over the crossbar.
But it was the small scattering of home fans who were celebrating on 21 minutes when big defender Ferrin roared forward to meet McGuigan’s corner kick and the outcome was inevitable, leaving goalkeeper Stuart Addis helpless.
Amazingly, the Swifts were level within 60 seconds. Dougie Wilson tried his luck with a speculative drive from distance, which was gobbled up by Hughes and he managed to steer the ball wide of Morris.
Ronnie McFall’s boys almost regained the lead on 27 minutes with Allen cutting back a great pass into the path of James Knowles, whose low drive forced Addis into a smart save, low to his right.
The Glens were back in front four minutes later. Allen was hauled down by a late challenge from Chris Hegarty 25 yard out and, although the striker could only fire his free kick into the Swifts wall, it broke for the waiting McGuigan, who drilled it into the bottom corner.
And, the small army of home supporters were treated to a brilliant third just eight minutes from the interval when Ross Redman’s free kick was flicked on by the head of McGuigan for Allen, but simply buried the ball into the top corner.
The Swifts were back in business just eight minutes after the break when Hegarty brilliantly finished off a Wilson cross, the defender’s header ripping into the net via the under side of the crossbar.
McAree’s lads thought they had struck again seconds later when Jarlath O’Rourke finished off a Chris Lowe cross, but he had strayed into an offside position.
The visitors were right out of luck on 67 minutes when Hughes’ 25 yard free kick smacked against the crossbar after Ferrin had flattened Wilson.
But the Glens sealed the points 12 minutes from time with McGuigan crossing for Allen to poke home.
Sadly, it all ended on a sour note with the dismissal of Allen and Clucas.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Ferrin, Redman, O’Hanlon, Birney, Addis, Kane, Knowles (Kelly 80), Nelson, Allen, McGuigan (Davidson 84).
Unused subs: McMullan, McCaul, Nelson.
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Addis, Hegarty, Wilson, Harpur, O’Rourke, Patton, Lowe (Coyle 60), Clucas, Hughes, Hutchinson (Burke 69), Campbell.
Unused subs: Fitzpatrick, McElroy, Teggart.
REFEREE: Shane Andrews (Comber).