This draw leaves Glentoran fifth in the Sports Direct Premiership, 14 points off the top of and 10 points behind today’s third placed opponents and today’s game was a perfect example of the reason for that. With this draw we have now dropped no fewer than 15 points from 6 games we had led in the second half. This inability to see out games is fast becoming the story of our season and the source of great frustration to the Glens support.
With Cammy Palmer suspended and Niall McGinn injured – both players immense in last week’s Big Two win – there were two changes to the starting line-up. Luke McCullough returned in a 3-man defence and Sean Murray had a start in midfield. Glens supporters were surprised but delighted to see the surprise return of Rhys Marshall to the squad for the first time since the corresponding game with Cliftonville 3 months ago.
The game started badly for the Glens. After Aaron McCarey was called on to save well from Rory Hale in the first minute, he was helpless a minute later when a hopeful long ball out of defence evaded the Glentoran defenders to give the other Hale brother, Ronan, a chance he willingly took to give the Reds an early lead and the best possible start. The rest of the half was untypically uneventful. The 2 young Glens wing backs Wightman and Russell were both causing problems for Cliftonville but it was 21 minutes before the Glens had a meaningful effort, a Daire O’Connor shot. David Fisher shot over and Ben Wilson also did so when put through just before half time.
The Reds rued Wilson’s miss almost immediately when Johnny Russell’s long throw found Daire O’Connor, whose shot against his former club was deflected home for the equaliser and the winger’s 8th goal of the season. All even at the break
Half time: Cliftonville 1-1 Glentoran
Glentoran started the second half as Cliftonville did the first, with a goal. Shay McCartan’s long ball deep into the Reds box was met by David Fisher who nodded home to give the visitors the lead.
Disappointingly we didn’t look like building on the lead and the Reds equalised just 6 minutes later. This time it was young full back Shea Kearney who cut in from right to hit a drive into the Glens net. It was a well hit shot from just outside the box, but the Glens defence had to be disappointed in the manner the shot sailed past all of them on its way past Aaron McCarey.
The Glens got some encouragement from the performance of midfield trio Fuad Sule (man of the match) and subs Rhys Marshall and Josh Kelly for the last 20 minutes, but we didn’t look like scoring. Best effort of the half came from Rory Hale but he shot straight at McCarey when he should have scored.
In the 94th minute it looked like Cliftonville had nicked it when Rory Hale volleyed home, but it was immediately blown for offside in the last action of the game.
A point at Solitude is never an easy thing to gain, but again the Glens support will have left the stadium ruing yet another opportunity wasted and another lead surrendered..
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Wightman, McClean, McCullough (c), Singleton, Murray (Marshall 62), Sule, Russell, McCartan (Junior 79), O'Connor (Kelly 73) & Fisher
Subs (Not used): Webber, Boyd, Walsh, Smyth