Glentoran fought back from a goal down and were unlucky not to take all 3 points against Coleraine this afternoon. On Easter Tuesday, when the two sides met at the Oval, it was the home side who scored early and then held on to claim the win. For much of the game today it looked like we were going to witness the reverse.
Coleraine went in front with less than 3 minutes on the clock. The Glentoran defence failed to deal with a cross from the right and although Jonny Addis blocked the first effort, the second strike came off Jay Magee and into the path of James McLaughlin who fired past Elliott Morris and into the top corner of the net. It was the Bannsiders striker's 20th goal of the season. Moments later things almost got worse for the Glens but Adam Mullan's curling effort evaded the far post. On 6 minutes Ciaran Caldwell had the first ffort on goal for the visitors but his 20 yard shot was straight at Chris Johns and the keeper gathered it comfortably. Caldwell tried his luck from slightly further out 5 minutes later and although this effort was more powerfully struck, Johns saved it at the second attempt. James McLaughlin then had two chances in 2 minutes to extend Coleraine's lead. On 16 minutes he shot wide when well positioned and then on 18 minutes a poor kick out from Morris went straight to Darren McCauley. McCauley crossed the ball into the danger area but McLaughlin's header was wide of the goal. Chris Morrow then did well to win an aerial challenge on the edge of the Coleraine area. The ball broke for David Scullion but his left foot shot was well over.
Midway through the first half a free kick on the left was swung into the Glentoran penalty area by Higgins. It went right across goal before being hacked behind for a corner much to the relief of the Glentoran fans behind the goal. On the half hour mark Glentoran finally put together an excellent passing move with Morrow eventually finding Scullion on the right but he scuffed his cross and the chance was gone. On 34 minutes Scullion played in Jonathan Smyth. The young striker looked set to level things up but the ball took a bobble as he was about to shoot and he failed to test the keeper. A minute later Curtis Allen tried to curl the ball into the top corner but again failed to hit the target. The final opportunity of the half fell to the goal scorer, McLaughlin but although he beat Jay Magee in the air, he headed wide of the goal.
The lethargy that Glentoran showed in the first 45 minutes disappeared after the interval; presumably as a result of some serious half time discussions. Just 2 minutes after the break Jonathan Smyth was fouled 25 yards from goal. Curtis Allen took the free kick and was unlucky to see his strike hit the post and go wide of the goal. The Glens then forced a succession of corners but failed to take advantage of any of them. On 55 minutes a long throw in from Addis was spilled by Johns and the ball eventually found it's way back out to Addis on the left. He drilled it back into the goalmouth but Johns came and gathered it well. Just before th hour mark Glentoran boss, Alan Kernaghan made a double substitution with Fra McCaffrey and Steven Gordon coming on to replace the ineffective duo of Scullion and McCullough. A minute later and the Glens should have been level. Another long throw in from Addis broke to Allen but his close range effort was well stopped by the Coleraine keeper.
On 67 minutes, with the Glens really piling on the pressure, Allen had another free kick blocked. The ball broke to Steven Gordon but his shot was also blocked and skipper, Marcus Kane then saw his effort cleared too! Coleraine were hanging on but only just. 2 minutes later and Fra McCaffrey's cross from the left was dumied by Smyth, allowing Allen a clear shot on goal. Glentoran's top marksman connected well but his strike crashed off the bar. With 15 minutes remainng Coleraine finally had another attempt on goal; James McLaughlin's 25 yard drive flying just over the Glentoran crossbar. Back up the other end we went and the ball was played into the Coleraine area. As Curtis Allen closed in Steven Douglas handled the ball and the assistant referee signalled for a penalty. Douglas, who had been booked earlier for a very poor challenge on Steven Gordon, was shown a second yellow card and the home side were down to ten men.
Jonathan Smyth stepped up to take the penalty and drove it low into the bottom right hand corner of the net. It was all Glentoran now and Steven Gordon fired into the side netting from a tight angle on 80 minutes. Chris Morrow brought another decent save out of Johns (82) and Smyth (84) then latched onto a Barry Holland cross; his volley screaming just wide of the far post. Kane then shot wide before Curtis allen was presented with a great chance to win the game in the 88th minute. The prolific Glentoran striker perhaps took a split second too long to get his shot away, allowing the Coleraine defender to get a decisive block in. As we entered added time the 10 men of Coleraine almost won the game. Sloppy play at the back from the Glens presented chances for both James McGonigle and Ian Parkhill but Elliott Morris produced two fantastic saves to keep them out.
So it remains advantage Coleraine in the race for 5th place and a home tie in the Europa League play-offs. There are 4 more games to go though, beginning next Saturday for the Glens against Cliftonville at Solitude.
Glentoran: Morris, Holland, Kane (capt), Addis, Magee, Morrow, Caldwell, Scullion, McCullough, Smyth & allen.
Subs: McCaffrey for Scullion (59) and Gordon for McCullough (59). Unused subs: Hogg, Birney & Nelson.
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.