A challenging few days off the pitch for Glentoran took a disappointing turn on it this evening as a second half Rory Hale goal gave Cliftonville the opportunity to leapfrog into a two-point lead over us in the Danske Bank Premiership.
The Glens’ starting line-up showed three changes from the one that beat Newry City on Saturday. Darren Cole replaced Joe Crowe in central defence, stand-in skipper Seanan returned to midfield and Rory Donnelly was brought back in to face his former club. Robbie McDaid and Shay McCartan dropped to the bench after starting on Saturday.
In a pretty even start to the game, the Glens had the first chance in the third minute when Seanan Clucas broke through from a defensive mistake, but Reds’ keeper McNickle was out quickly to make a timely tackle. This was immediately followed by a pinpoint cross into the Glens box from former Glenman Jamie McDonagh, typically brilliantly intercepted by Caolan Marron.
The Glens were first to have the ball in the net after eleven minutes when Hrvoje Plum hit home a Conor McMenamin pass but the latter player was flagged for offside.
First booking of the night was Rory Donnelly for a tackle from behind on his former Glens team mate Cricky Gallagher. A fair enough decision but just two minutes later Reds’ striker Rory Hale committed a very similar foul but no card.
The play remained fairly even, although after 31 minutes Caolan Marron again needed to produce a perfect interception from Ronan Doherty who was well through.
The half ended with the Glens in the slight ascendancy. First, Jay Donnelly sent McMenamin through on goal but the winger’s shot – our best effort to date – went across the goalmouth and just wide of the far post. Then Bobby Burns – who had kept the in form McDonagh very quiet – made a very direct and dangerous run towards the Reds box and was clear through only to be held back by Kris Lowe. Inexplicably the ref gave a foul against Burns!
Half Time: Glentoran 0-0 Cliftonville
The game’s defining moment came on 52 minutes with the Cliftonville goal, and it was a well-executed one. Ryan Curran – who rarely lacks impact against us – received the ball from Daniel Kearns and immediately lobbed over the Glens defence where he found Rory Hale in acres of space. Hale finished confidently and effectively.
The Glens still had chances through Rory Donnelly and Conor McMenamin, but while McNickle in the Reds goals made saves, they weren’t difficult ones. Mick McDermott made substitutions in the attacking areas with McDaid and McCartan coming on around the seventy-minute mark. But while we had plenty of hard work and possession in the Reds’ half, neither keeper was really troubled for most of the half.
The Reds had a loud penalty claim with eighteen minutes to go. Skipper Levi Ives made an outstanding run into the Glens’ box. His pass was shot by Curran against Bobby Burns. The Reds players appealed for a penalty, but the referee was well placed and rightly decided Bobby’s arm was at his side so no penalty.
By this stage Michael O’Connor was on for Sean Murray and the bulk of the play remained in the Cliftonville half, with chances falling to McDaid and Jay Donnelly. There was even an injury time penalty claim when Shay McCartan felt his low cross hit Ives’ hand, The ball then fell to Burns on the edge of the box, but his shot went just wide.
So, a typically low scoring game between the two teams, with plenty of attacking possession but no goals or points for the Glens. We now go to Dungannon on Saturday three points behind Linfield and two behind Cliftonville. A lot left to play for in the Danske Bank Premiership but a win at Stangmore Park will be expected.
Full Time: Glentoran 0-1 Cliftonville
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, (Cole 46), Burns, Marron, Cole (McCartan 70), Plum, Clucas (c) Murray, (O'Connor 82), R. Donnelly (McDaid 69), J. Donnelly & McMenamin.