Glentoran’s miserable run of results continued tonight a deflected goal eleven minutes from time led to our second 0-1 loss to Cliftonville in a month and our fourth consecutive league defeat to the same opposition in 2022.
There were four changes from the Bet McLean Cup defeat to Linfield; fit again Paddy McClean returned as a straight swap for the injured Aidan Wilson. Seanan Clucas made a very welcome first start of the season in place of Hrvoje Plum. Sean Murray replaced Ally Roy and Rory Donnelly returned after two games out injured with brother Jay moving to the bench.
For two teams with title aspirations the first half was a pretty uneventful one with neither side really looking like making a breakthrough. Joe Gormley had an untypical bad miss in the second minute when he headed wide after Aaron McCarey parried a Ronan Hale shot from the edge of the area.
In the first half we had efforts from Terry Devlin, Danny Purkis, Rory Donnelly and Sean Murray but the best of our attempts came from a dynamic solo run from Seanan Clucas that was well saved by Gartside. This was the only effort that troubled Gartside.
The biggest talking point in the half came from a Cliftonville attack on 39 minutes when ex-Glens winger Jamie McDonagh was very lucky to escape with a yellow card after he flattened Bobby Burns with a clear use of the elbow. Burns – like his fellow defenders – had done well to keep the very effective Reds’ forwards relatively quiet to that point.
Half Time: Cliftonville 0-0 Glentoran
Glentoran started the second half as the much brighter team and should have taken the lead through Rory Donnelly from a pinpoint Purkis cross but his first-time shot from six yards out failed to hit the target. The Glens had the majority of the limited number of chances in the opening half hour with Clucas, Donnelly and Purkis all having efforts but failing to seriously threaten Gartside in the home goal.
The second refereeing controversy came on 74 minutes when Luke Turner appeared to impede Purkis in the Cliftonville box but no foul was awarded despite vigorous Glentoran claims for a penalty.
Inevitably following that incident came the only goal of the game. 17-year-old Sean Moore was given far too much space down the left side of our penalty area, his pass into the box was poorly cleared and full back Kris Lowe was on hand to take a free shot at goal. Lowe’s shot was going wide of the far post until it ricocheted off Seanan Clucas’ back into the Glens’ net. If there was one player on the night who seriously didn’t deserve such a stroke of bad luck it was Clucas, who in his first start since May had dominated the midfield until he inevitably tired late on.
The Glens had a couple of late chances to equalise. First Danny Purkis pulled a save from Gartside then late in extra time Jay Donnelly misheaded from an excellent Devlin cross.
So another night of extreme disappointment for the Glentoran travelling support as we fell to our third consecutive defeat in all competition as and have now won just one game in our last eight. More worryingly we have taken just four of the last eighteen available league points. This now leaves us in fifth place, nine points behind leaders Larne and seven behind second placed Cliftonville but with only two games in hand.
We now move onto a Boxing Day Big Two game that promises to be the most critical for some time as any further lost ground would be very damaging to our title aspirations.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Burns, McCullough, McClean (c), Clucas (Smith 81), Murray (Crowe 81), Devlin, Wightman (Roy 75), R. Donnelly (J. Donnelly 75) & Purkis