LAST season’s Premiership title winners proved too hot to handle for newly-promoted Bangor in the first of their pre-season match-ups on Tuesday evening.
2022/23 Premiership Player of the Year Leroy Millar picked up from where he left off last term with a hat-trick while Paul O’Neill and new signing Ryan Farquhar were also on target for Tiernan Lynch’s side, who are gearing up to face Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki in a UEFA Champions League qualifying double-header in two weeks’ time.
Larne might have enjoyed the majority of the play against their Championship opposition, but it was Bangor who could have taken the lead twice early on. First, captain Lewis Harrison squeezed an effort through a crowded goalmouth after working the initial shooting opportunity, but his shot was straight into the hands of Rohan Ferguson.
Then, a bigger chance arrived at the feet of frontman Ben Arthurs when the ball dropped for the centre-forward after Jamie Glover broke at speed. However Arthurs couldn’t keep his effort from sailing narrowly over the top.
At the other end, Paul O’Neill should have done better with his header when left unmarked in the penalty area and Dylan Sloan was next to pass up a scoring chance for the visitors in the 17th minute. Picked out in a central position by Andy Ryan, the young midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Newry City, failed to make significant contact.
But Larne did find the breakthrough only two minutes later courtesy of ex-Cliftonville forward O’Neill, who finished low into the bottom corner with Ryan again the provider.
It took a smart finger-tip save from Bangor stopper Marc Orbinson to prevent the away side from doubling their lead as he diverted Ryan’s curling effort just after the half-hour mark.
There was nothing he could do about the Inver Reds’ second less than two minutes later, though, as Leroy Millar latched onto O’Neill’s through pass to fire powerfully into the roof of the net from an angle.
Two became three for Larne and Millar got his second of the evening when he found the bottom right hand corner with a drive from the edge of the area. Bangor almost capitalised from a rare foray forward as Jordan Hughes struck over, but the visitors would put the contest beyond doubt shortly before the interval through new arrival Ryan Farquhar, bundling home from close range following Dylan Sloan’s corner.
The second period was eight minutes old when Larne found their fifth goal – an effortlessly cool first-time finish from O’Neill guided underneath the outstretched Orbinson.
And midway through the half, Millar helped himself to a hat-trick following a passage of intricate build-up play which saw the Seasiders ’keeper stop the initial effort, only for the rebound to land perfectly for the former Ballymena favourite to tap into an empty net and put the gloss on a professional display.
A stern test to kick off preparations for the new season for Bangor, in which young prospects Sonny Redford and Ross Ferguson were handed minutes. Next up for the Seasiders is a meeting with Amateur League side East Belfast at Clandeboye Park this Saturday (1pm), before they lock horns with Glentoran a week later.
Bangor: Orbinson, Beattie, Hume, Trialist, R. Neale, O’Kane, Harrison (c), Glover, Hughes, Trialist, Arthurs.
Larne: Ferguson, Cosgrove (c), Want, Farquhar, Omar, Glynn, Donnelly, Millar, Sloan, Ryan, O’Neill.
Referee: Raymond Crangle
Man of the match: Leroy Millar