Glentoran started this year’s Uefa Europa Conference League campaign with a well-deserved (at least) draw in Malta tonight in a game that – while having roller coaster period – saw the visitors as very much the better of the teams.
Of our summer signings, Daire O’Connor was given his first competitive start on the right wing while Fuad Sule and Josh Kelly started on the bench. All three would play their part in this positive result.
The Glens had a dream start on 2 minutes when a Gzira defender handled a Shay McCartan cross and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot and (harshly) showing the defender a yellow card. However Junior’s effort didn’t come close to troubling the keeper as his shot was both too high and well wide.
Junior quickly redeemed himself as on 9 minutes he easily headed home an O’Connor cross after a great run when the winger was sent clear by Aaron Wightman. First blood to the Glens! Glentoran continued to look the stronger outfit for the next 15 minutes but only had a high shot from Bobby Burns to show for it after good work by McGinn and O’Connor.
The half turned on 28 minutes when we conceded a poor goal. A Gzira midfielder was given all the time and space he needed to launch a deep cross into the box. From the head down, Jose Wilkson was quicker to the ball than Aaron McCarey to bundle in the equaliser.
From this point in the half Gzira had the better of the play with the big Brazilian Wilkson causing panic on a few occasions. It was he who managed to turn a Glens attack into a Gzira goal, dispossessing McCartan outside the Gzira box and running virtually unchallenged for the length of the pitch before passing to Brooklyn Borg who hit home from the edge of the Glens box.
Half Time: Gzira 2-1 Glentoran
Warren Feeney made one half time change as he added Fuad Sule to the midfield with Rhys Marshall moving to right back. Sule’s presence clearly stabilised things in front of the back four as the Glens had another dream start to this half.
On 48 minutes Junior was fouled 25 yards out . Niall McGinn reacted quicky and when his on-target shot was parried by the keeper, Daire O’Connor was on the spot to mark his competitive debut with a confidently headed goal to level the scores. Daire then hit one just over the bar almost immediately.
From that point on the Glens never looked in trouble and the new manager took the opportunity to make some changes in the heat with the Donnelly brothers introduced up front and Josh Kelly making a late bow after his move from Ballymena United. The Glens had chances from free kicks and a shot from Jay Donnelly but the winner wouldn’t come.
So a massive home game to come next Thursday at the Bet McLean Oval (tickets available HERE) with absolutely everything to play for, for a team boosted by a very strong performance tonight in the most tropical of conditions. Great work so far!
Full Time: Gziri 2-2 Glentoran
Photographs by SCOTT MARTIN
Glentoran: McCarey, Wightman , Singleton, , McCullough (c), Wilson, Burns, Devlin, Marshall , McCartan, McGinn, O’Connor & Junior
Subs; Sule (for Wightman 45), J Donnelly (for Junior 68), R Donnelly (for O’Connor 79), Kelly (for McCartan 90 +2)
Unused Subs: Webber, Kane, Purkis, Locke, Boyd, Russell. Walsh, Jenkins