A superb victory tonight at Solitude moved the Glens back into second spot in the Danske Bank Premiership table. Once again it was Jay Donnelly with the goals however at the other end, Aaron McCarey also put in a marvellous performance to ensure that we got, what was, a massive 3 points.
Hero of our Irish Cup tie, Sean Murray, started the game in midfield with Joe Crowe dropping to the bench. As Conor McMenamin was serving the final game of his suspension the attack was made up of the Donnelly brothers and Robbie McDaid.
Apart from a shot on target from Robbie McDaid in the opening minute, the first quarter of the game was controlled by Cliftonville and perhaps they should have been more than one goal in front. That goal came from a superb 25-yard strike from Jamie McDonagh with just 5 minutes played. McDonagh collected a pass centrally and wasn't closed down quickly enough. His drive flew past a helpless Aaron McCarey. Chris Gallagher then dragged a shot wide before McDonagh had another chance on 11 minutes. This time his shot from a tight angle was well kept out by McCarey.
Midway through the half Joe Gormley received a yellow card for simulation from referee Andrew Davey. Gormley had also gone down easily in the second minute from a challenge from Paddy McClean. On both occasions the Reds' forward would have had decent goal scoring opportunities had he stayed on his feet but the TV replays showed the match referee got both calls correct.
Glentoran's first real opporunity came on 26 minutes. Rhys Marshall's pass set Robbie McDaid away down the right. McDaid put in a superb cross which rory Donnelly met at the back post but his header went wide. The visitors were beginning to grow into the game now and a long searching ball from Sean Murray was missed by Jonny Addis but although Jay Donnelly got a header on target, it was a comfortable save for Luke McNicholas in the Cliftonville goal.
10 minutes before the break Cliftonville gifted the ball to Jay Donnelly who took it to the edge of the box before firing at goal. Again the Reds' keeper made a straightforward save. On 44 minutes Glentoran were almost caught out by a quickly taken free kick by Jamie McDonagh; McCarey being forced to make an excellent save. Then, right on the 45 minutes, came the equaliser the Glens had been pressing for. Caolan Marron found Robbie McDaid and his excellent pass sent Rhys Marshall away down the right. Marshall put in a superb cross and Jay Donnelly got in front of Jonny Addis to guide the ball in off the far post. It was the striker's 20th goal in the Premiership this season.
Halftime: Cliftonville 1-1 Glentoran
Confidence high from that goal, Glentoran started the second half where they ended the first. Sean Murray tried his luck from long range and almost caught out McNicholas. From the resulting corner Paddy McClean saw his header cleared off the line. The goal arrived though in the 49th minute. Another excellent cross from Robbie McDaid was turned over his own crossbar by Luke Turner. Hrvoje Plum swung the corner in from the right and Jay Donnelly powered a header home from close range.
Midway through the half, the dangerous Jamie McDonagh forced another good save out of Aaron McCarey. Ronan Doherty's follow up effort was blocked before a 3rd Cliftonville effort flew high over the cossbar. At the other end on 68 minutes, Rory Donnelly raced through on goal only for McNicholas to race out and save at Donnelly's feet. On 77 minutes there was a chance for Joe Gormley to level thing up again but his header from a corner was straight at Aaron McCarey.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw Cliftonville lay siege to the Glentoran goal. Substitute Daniel Kearns fired wide and then Caolan Marron did well to deflect Levi Ives shot behind. That was followed by a superb drive from Kris Lowe which McCarey saved brilliantly. In the 90th minute the Glens missed a great opportunity to kill the game off. Having cleared yet another Cliftonville corner, the Glens broke with substitute Michael O'Connor finding Seanan Clucas about 25 yards from goal. As the Reds' keeper raced out Clucas lifted the ball over him but unfortunately over the crossbar too!
In stoppage time Aaron McCarey pulled off another magnificent save to deny Levi Ives from a 20-yard free kick and then right at the end the Reds were thwarted again, this time Joe Crowe with the block. So a big, big win for the Glens but there's no time to sit back and enjoy it. Friday night sees us back across in North Belfast; this time to face Crusaders at Seaview.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Burns, Marron, McClean (c), Plum, Murray (Crowe 67), Clucas, R. Donnelly, J. Donnelly (O'Connor 78) & McDaid.
The alternative view of Jay's first goal.