Glentoran’s six match unbeaten run came to a disappointing but familiar end tonight – a single goal by Joe Gormley consigning us to a single goal defeat to Cliftonville.
We started with three changes from our draw with Institute – Elliott Morris, Paul O’Neill and Darren Murray coming in for Marijan Antolovic, Cricky Gallagher and Elvio Van Overbeek, all on the bench this evening. Elliott Morris – who has played in all our cup matches so far this season – turned back the years with an outstanding, man of the match performance in the Glentoran goal.
Glentoran started brightly and in the first few minutes had good crosses from Navid Nasseri and Hrvoje Plum teasingly pass across the Reds’ goal but failed to get anyone on the end of them. Then on eight minutes, Paul O’Neill shot just wide of the Cliftonville near post.
However, that was as good as it got in the first half and after nineteen minutes came the decisive goal. Gormley chased a long free kick, ran through the Glens’ gaping defence, judged the bounce perfectly on the characteristically eccentric pitch to lob Elliott Morris. Another great finish for Gormley but at best a careless goal to succeed from the Reds’ first serious attack.
From that point on it was all Cliftonville as the Glens’ midfield was consistently outfought. Gormley was denied with a brilliant save by Morris after a mix up between Herron and Nasseri. Gavin Peers made a great block when Chris Curran was through. Paddy McClean cleared the danger after another great Morris save from a Breen header. And later in the half Jamie Harney hit the Glens crossbar with a strong header. During this period Hrvoje Plum became the first of six players booked (Plum, Nasseri, O’Neill for Glentoran and McDermott, Maguire and Bagnall for Cliftonville) in what was a competitive but not particularly physical game.
Half Time: Cliftonville 1-0 Glentoran
There were no half time substitutions for either side, and the second half could be considered a much more even affair with Gormley generally well contained by the Glens defence.
The first real chance of the half fell to John Herron, but he timidly shot wide from a very good position. This was soon followed by another excellent save from Morris, this time at Gormley’s feet after Plum had been dispossessed further up the pitch. Our next chance fell to Darren Murray from a Robbie McDaid flick. However, “Doozle” allowed himself to be distracted by the Reds’ keeper and hit his shot over the bar. A minute later Murray and Paul O’Neill were replaced by Cameron Stewart and Elvio Van Overbeek.
The only further highlights were an outstanding double save from Maguire and Doherty and a twenty-yard shot from Marcus Kane saved by Brush.
Johnny Frazer replaced Nasseri with ten minutes to go but at the death the only real chance came when, late in injury time, the ball fell to Gormley in a carbon copy of his first half goal. On this occasion the Cliftonville striker was denied by Elliott Morris who judged the bounce perfectly to dispossess him.
So, very disappointing to lose our first semi final in five years in such a familiar manner. But really the difference was in midfield where Bagnall, Curran and McMenamin won that battle from very early on and stopped the Glens really getting any sort of grip on the match. Plenty to think about and work on ahead of the visit of Dungannon Swifts on Saturday.
Full Time: Cliftonville 1-0 Glentoran
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Morris, Pepper, Kane (c), Peers, McClean, Nasseri (Frazer 80), Herron, Plum, McDaid, O'Neill (Van Overbeek 61) & Murray (Stewart 61).