48 hours later than planned, Glentoran travelled to Shamrock Park and came out on the wrong end of a 5-3 scoreline. The game was, of course, postponed on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch but the Shamrock Park surface had recovered well from the weekend’s deluge and whilst sticky & bumpy, remained playable throughout. Glentoran came into the game on a high having seen off Ballinamallard and Glenavon in their last two games whilst the Ports have also shown signs of resurgence recently and were fresh from a 16 day layoff since beating Linfield 2-0. Both sides were missing experience players through suspension, the home side were without Ken Oman and Garry Breen whilst the Glens were missing Stephen McAlorum and Barry Holland. This combined with the still hefty injury list meant that Glens fielded a relatively youthful line-up once more with 17-year old Patrick Cafolla handed his first senior start in midfield.
Glentoran started the game brightly and should probably have been in front within 90 seconds, Fra McCaffrey was played through on goal but couldn’t guide the ball past the onrushing David Miskelly. They threatened again shortly after with good combination play from McCaffrey and Curtis Allen but the final ball into the box cleared everyone. After that positive start Portadown reacted, scoring with their first attack of the game. Chris Casement was given too much space on the right and picked out the unmarked Gary Twigg who had the simple task of sliding the ball into the unguarded portion of Elliott Morris’ net. After that frantic start the game settled somewhat but Marcus Kane sparked it back into life 5 minutes later when his 25 yard drive struck a sliding Tim Mouncey and looped over the stranded Miskelly into the net for the equaliser. Glentoran seemed to gain confidence from this and nearly worked their way through a couple of times early in the game, looking particularly dangerous down the left hand side. Indeed the good work paid off just after the quarter hour when Jonny Smith chested a cross beautifully into the path of Curtis Allen who made no mistake, his close range, left footed finish gave the Glens a deserved lead.
The game then became somewhat bogged down in midfield with neither team really threatening seriously and possession being readily squandered, and it was from an error that Portadown found themselves back on level terms after 27 minutes. Niall Henderson turned just short of the halfway line and attempted to play the ball back to Morris however he left it short and Darren Murray read the play well, seized on the loose pass and clipped the ball stylishly over the helpless keeper. Subsequently Portadown began to press more and more, winning a couple of free kicks around the visitors’ penalty area but Jay Magee and Jonny Addis dealt well with the deliveries well, even with the wet goalmouths making it a tricky night for defenders. However just over 5 minutes before the break Glentoran failed to deal with a penetrating run and were heavily punished. Robert Garrett ran 30 yards relatively unchallenged and was able to pick his spot and smash a low 20 yard drive past Morris into the corner. This completed a quick turnaround in a half which Glentoran started brightly but subsequently gave away three preventable goals. It could have got worse before half time with Redman curling a free kick well over and Murray flashing across the front of goal after smartly rolling his marker. An exhilarating first half with plenty of action but ultimately Glentoran went in behind - Half Time Portadown 3-2 Glentoran.
Glens’ manager Alan Kernaghan will have no doubt encouraged his men to press for an early leveller in the second half, but his plans quickly suffered another blow when the Ports added a forth just 4 minutes into the second half. Darren Murray used his strength to beat Magee, cut inside Addis and shot under Morris to give the home side a two goal cushion. Morris will be disappointed he didn’t save the former DC frontman’s effort as despite getting a touch to the ball, it seemed to squirm under his body and trickle over the line. However almost immediately the seventh goal of this breathless encounter arrived. An Addis long throw was headed high into the air and Curtis Allen climbed to win the battle, heading home at the near post to half the deficit. 4-3. From this point Portadown began to shut up shop, wasting time and generally restricting Glentoran to speculative efforts. A Jonny Smith free kick caused a moment of panic in the home box but after a scramble with a couple of blocked attempts, the ball was cleared. Unfortunately for the away side the hammer blow came with 20 minutes to go. Portadown were awarded a soft free kick wide on the right which was only partially cleared to Gary Twigg and when given the chance the Scot made no mistake, hammering in a volley which restored the two goal cushion and sealed the game.
The remainder of the game fell into a pattern with the Glens not really carving out many chances due to good defending whilst being threatened with dangerous counter attacks from the home side. Glentoran almost gave themselves a lifeline during a series of Addis throw-ins when one was flicked right across the goalmouth but somehow eluded everyone in a white shirt. Kane, Addis and Karl Hamill all had late efforts from range but in truth from the moment Twigg volleyed in, the Glens never really looked like gaining anything from the game. Portadown deserved their victory on the strength of the last hour on what was an entertaining but frustrating night after a bright start to the game. The Glens will be looking to bounce back quickly with back to back homes games, firstly facing Cliftonville on Saturday, then the traditional Boxing Day derby against Linfield.
Glentoran – Morris, Gordon, Addis, Magee, McCullough, Henderson, Kane, Cafolla (sub McMenamin 67), McCaffrey (sub Caldwell 55), Smith (sub Hamill 79), Allen.
Subs not used: Hogg, Fearon.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.