A point away to a team that has topped the Danske Bank Premiership for a number of weeks would normally be looked upon favourably by most teams but for Glentoran it was very much a case of two points that got away.....again.
David Scullion forced Johnny Taylor to concede a corner with barely half a minute gone in the game. Scullion and McCaffrey worked a short corner well before Scullion's cross, met by the head of Marcus Kane, forced Dwayne Nelson to save. A couple of minutes later Matthew Tipton, looking suspiciously offside, was waved on only for Aaron Hogg to deny him. The game burst into life on 4 minutes when another Glentoran attack was halted when Ballymena's skipper, Allan Jenkins fouled Scullion. As the last defender Jenkins saw red from referee Hunter and the official awarded the Glens a penalty. Fra McCaffrey took the spot kick, firing the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal. Niall Henderson had the next chance for the visitors but his shot from the edge of the 18-yard box was wide of the mark on 9 minutes. A dangerous cross from Stephen McBride almost resulted in an equaliser for United when Stephen McAlorum deflected the ball goalwards only for Hogg to make a great stop. With the home side down to 10 men and a goal down, Glentoran enjoyed a spell of dominance but they failed to capitalise on their advantage and Nelson wasn't really tested as much as he should have been.
The Glens were made to pay for their inability to score a second when, after 33 minutes, Ballymena United drew level. A long ball forward from Taylor found ex-Glentoran striker Darren Boyce and he rifled a shot past Hogg from 12 yards. 2 minutes later United had the chance to draw level when the officials adjudged that Calum Birney deliberately handled the ball in the area. Birney was furious and the TV footage seems to suggest that the ball struck him in the chest! Alan Teggart took the penalty but Aaron Hogg, diving to his left, produced an outstanding stop. Just before the interval a Neal Gawley cross was sliced over his own crossbar by Birney. From the resulting Gawley corner Taylor missed a great opportunity to put the sky blues in front, heading over with the goal at his mercy.
Matthew Tipton had the first real chance of the second period on 50 minutes but he delayed his shot and Glentoran skipper, Stephen McAlorum and Aaron Hogg got the ball clear. Horrific defending by Glentoran 10 minutes into the second half presented Tipton with another opportunity but he miscued and the ball went wide. The Glens then had a period of control with chances falling to Danny McKee and David Scullion. Substitute, Curtis Allen then linked up well with McKee but Allen's final pass was just too close to the keeper. On 73 minutes Glentoran were, incorrectly, awarded a corner. Scullion's cross was met by Allen and his header flashed past Nelson to seemingly put the Glens back in front. Once again though a Glentoran goal was disallowed by the officials, referee Hunter suggesting that Allen had fouled the defender. Another two Glentoran substitutes then combined to come close; Jordan Stewart's flick from Jim O'Hanlon's cross coming back off the crossbar. Darren Boyce tried to get on to a long punt forward (80) but Hogg was out very quickly and beat Boyce to the ball. 3 minutes from time a David Howland free kick into the Ballymena penalty area fell to Johnny Addis. His cross was headed goalwards by Curtis Allen and although Nelson got down well to save, the ball broke to Jordan Stewart who forced it over the line. With 3 of the 4 added minutes played, Jim O'Hanlon lost the ball in midfield. It was thumped forward and initially Aaron Hogg did well to save from Mark Surgenor but the ball broke to Gary Thompson and he fired it through a group of Glentoran defenders to snatch a point.
Highlights on BBC Sport NI HERE
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Glentoran: Hogg, Henderson, Birney, Addis, Holland, McAlorum (capt), Howland, Kane, Scullion, McCaffrey & McKee.
Subs: Allen for Holland, Stewart for McKee and O'Hanlon for McCaffrey.