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Chris Casement celebrates his goal with Linfield team mate Michael Gault (Picture: William Cherry/PressEye.com

NO BEL CLASICO BLUES FOR LINFIELD

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CAN you have too much of a good thing? The fondly dubbed Bel Clasico ended in yet another Linfield victory but Glentoran looked just as likely to dish out some heartache and drama of their own.

The first half peaked early with Philip Lowry’s twelfth goal of the season, netted inside three minutes. Nathan Hanley’s corner had just slightly too much on it but William Murphy headed back to an unmarked Lowry, who knocked it in from close range.

While it took a while to get started, things became suitably fiery after the break, suggesting half time talks befitting a clash between these heavyweights. After Lowry had grabbed his second ten minutes after the break both sides looked ready to fight.

Scott Young threw on Michael Doran and Neal Gawley minutes later and Colin Nixon pulled one back for the visitors, latching onto Johnny Black’s free kick at the back post. Daryl Fordyce scored from the spot after Peter Thompson was deemed to have handled the ball in the area and substitute Chris Casement’s match winner proved that Linfield’s bench power is crucial.

Ultimately, a combination of fatigue, failing systems and a lack of options brought Glentoran tumbling after the triple bill against the champions.

Ten days ago when the Big Two was last hosted at Windsor, both managers called for more determination, fight and desire from their players. Fast forward a week and both noted acceptable improvements. And by this mid-week fixture it looked set to have disappeared again.

"I thought we played better football than on Saturday but took a while to get going," Linfield boss David Jeffrey said, but the Blues side had included four first team changes and once again, Jeffrey’s substitutions made the difference.

"We mixed up the panel. We could have played those who had played the last two but you need to change it up sometimes. Chris Casement came in hungry and Philip was always starting with Jamie Mulgrew being suspended but he has been busting for that opportunity for some time. However, they all did well and the whole squad has strengths. Steven Douglas has been immense, Michael Carvill, Jamie Tomelty, they’ve been immense."

As his opposite number Young had identified, both teams could have produced several more chances than seen when the goals rained in late into the game. “The chances we’ve had in the three Linfield games, what can I say?” he asked, looking deflated after the third successive defeat.

"You can’t have them against your biggest rivals and not put them away. Nathan Hanley is terrific with his delivery but for players to get free headers in the box? It’s unacceptable. Conceding so early on was a terrible, terrible start but it took everyone a while to get into the game after that."

Glentoran’s front line, wasteful with its chances, hadn’t presented the biggest threats. Defender Paul Leeman’s super strike on 34 minutes was drilled into Murphy and Sean Ward also worked notably hard down the line.

For Linfield, it could have also been a more comfortable win. Hanley’s left foot seems to have won the set piece privileges, delivering the perfect corner on 50 minutes for Michael Carvill but his shot was sent over the bar.

Elliott Morris leapt to Glentoran’s salvation when he stopped a forceful shot from Paul Munster tipping it over the bar seconds before Lowry recorded his brace and BJ Burns’ physicality applied pressure where needed. Substitute Casement completed the home side’s night when he slotted past Morris with fantastic speed and accuracy, running onto a pass from Peter Thompson, before the night was marginally blackened with Steven Douglas’ dismissal for a second yellow deep into stoppage time.

"I am pleased with how the players have done but we haven’t won anything yet." Jeffrey added.

"It would be ridiculously stupid to suggest the title’s over. You look at the lead Manchester United had, an unassailable lead. If Man United and Alex Ferguson can lose a title, I think humble David Jeffrey can. I was immensely proud of their work rate, commitment and desire on Saturday. If you don’t play well and win, the danger is you think you can get away with not playing well. Even if you do play well, the squad still has to change.

"If players believe you will stick by your principles and they want to be here hopefully you and they will get the rewards."

Young however is looking much further ahead than who will be lifting the Gibson Cup. “The bottom line is we’ve lost three in a row against Linfield,” he added. “My focus is on next season and recruiting players who can take us where we want to be. It’s very difficult to lift and motivate players but at the end of the day, because of the smaller squad we have they’ve so many chances to go out and prove themselves but we have to lift them if they don’t show.

"There are no mystery millions at Glentoran. We’ve made offers to players we want to keep and if they don’t accept them they’ll have to go on. I want to bring in players so it has to be an active summer.

"It’s been such a difficult , turbulent season. I’ve had to deal with a lot; I’ve had five or six years of management experience crammed into 12 months and I want to take this club to where I want it to be which is the best and that’s not going to happen overnight."

By Laure James at Windsor Park

Tags:  Glentoran  Linfield