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GLENTORAN GO BELLY UP.

New manager - same old woeful workforce.

The charisma and motivation of Roy Coyle achieved absolutely nothing for Glentoran on Day One.

The harsh truth is that Glens were lucky to escape so lightly.

The job ahead of Roy is a big one . . . and now he knows it.

Coyle walked out to a standing ovation from the Oval's best crowd in ages. But his presence could not coax the team out of ingrained nervousness and chronic fear of adventure.

Even a thinly veiled threat in the programme editorial, that Glens were playing for their futures, produced no apparent stimulus.

It was Alan Fraser's United who played all the football and swiftly silenced home fans. And a delightful piece of action sent them ahead in 32 minutes.

Peter Murray stole the ball from Colin Nixon, fed PJ O'Connell and a perfect offering was rolled to Barry Patton.

The striker paused patiently until keeper Wayne Russell committed himself then stroked a 12 yarder into a bottom corner.

This was Patton's 17th goal and makes his pre-season target of 20 look extremely modest.

The man from Lifford - who uses an inhaler to combat asthma - even forced the substitution of Oval skipper John Devine, who grants few strikers a sniff.

Glentoran had a brief chance to claw back into the match just after half time.

That's when United lost central defended John McConnell and much of their shape.

Suddenly there was a flash of Justin McBride magic and a rare shooting opportunity for Rory Hamill. But from well inside the box, he thundered a drive against the bar. It was a critical miss. Within a couple of minutes Ballymena had a two-goal cushion. And this time Patton demonstrated admirable unselfishness.

Skinning Devine on the edge of the area, Barry had an angled target. Yet he carefully squared to unmarked Peter Murray who needed only one assured touch.

Coyle's first tactical move for Glens was a double substitution after an hour. Chris Walker replaced Devine and Michael Cash took over from Steve Livingstone in midfield.

It didn't look an inspired choice when Cash was booked within four minutes of joining the action. But he certainly made a major mark on the game.

With 80 minutes gone, Ballymena miskicked twice under no real pressure and Cash muscled in to bury a shot of spectacular power.

Michael swallow-dived on the sodden turf as if he'd knocked in the Cup final winner. And the effect on Glens was electric. In a rousing finale they finally cast aside all inhibition.

"It proved there is more in the team than we are seeing," feels Coyle. "They were all up for it the moment the goal went in. If Hamill had scored earlier it could have been so different. One goal made them believe in themselves."

But Roy isn't blind to deficiencies. "We lacked imagination," he concedes. "We had so much of the ball and didn't know what to do with it."

United's Alan Fraser confesses: "I'd have settled for a point. We were the underdogs amid all the publicity of Roy Coyle's arrival. Not many sides would have taken three points from the Oval under these circumstances."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Clark, Bill
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 23, 1997
Words:526
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