Glentoran's recent dismal run a form continued tonight as we missed out on reaching the Bet McLean Cup Final due to a comprehensive defeat by Linfield at the Bet McLean Oval.
The Glens made a number of changes from Saturday’s defeat at Seaview. Hrvoje Plum returned in midfield in place of the injured James Singleton and Ally Roy made the starting line-up in place of Sean Murray. Then Paddy McClean limped off from the pre match warm up to be replaced by Aaron Wightman who started on the right of midfield in a 4-3-3. A welcome sight for Glens supporters was the presence of Seanan Clucas for his first squad appearance since pre-season following a recurring groin injury.
There was a sign of what was to come in the first minute when a quick Joel Cooper free quick was hit just wide by Sam Roscoe, although Roscoe was blown up for offside. Robbie McDaid then had a shot easily saved by Aaron McCarey.
Another sign of what was to come came in the ninth minute when Aaron Wightman inexplicably received a yellow card for his 50:50 challenge on Matthew Clarke on the Glens’ right side. This was the first of eight yellow cards (four for each side) in what was far from a dirty match.
Clarke was then involved when the Blues’ breakthrough came on nineteen minutes. His corner from the right side was met unchallenged by Sam Roscoe who headed home to give his team the lead.
The Glens were dealt another blow a minute later. 36 year old Jamie Mulgrew of all people broke through into the penalty area to be robbed by a timely challenge from Aidan Wilson. However Wilson seemed to pick up an ankle knock in the challenge and had to be replaced in an unfamiliar centre back role by the returning Seanan Clucas.
Immediately from the restart Joel Cooper had the ball back in the Glens net but was flagged for offside. Then McDaid headed just over. But what looked like an inevitable Linfield second came on thirty minutes. Chris Shields played a long pass to Eetu Vertainen who looked to have all the time in the world to get into the Glens’ penalty area, leave the defence for dead then effortlessly put the ball home.
Shortly afterwards came the home side’s only meaningful effort of the game when Aaron Wightman shot on goal after a great, direct run but had his effort saved by Johns. AaronMcCarey was soon called on to make a very good save from a Roscoe header and another direct from the corner.
Half Time: Glentoran 0-2 Linfield
The Glens made one enforced change at half time when Mal Smith came on for the injured Hrvoje Plum victim of a nasty tackle before the break by Cammy Palmer that earned the Blues’ midfielder a deserved booking. Smith assumed his established position at right back with Rhys Marshall replacing Plum in midfield.
The first half hour of the second half was relatively incident free bar a series of bookings for both sides, but Glentoran never looked like making the necessary breakthrough. Though Aaron McCarey was called on to make a decisive clearance when Vertainen was clear through on seventy minutes.
The result was put beyond doubt four minutes later when Linfield scored their third. It had a former Glentoran input as substitute Conor Pepper, sent away by Chris Shields after dispossessing Jay Donnelly, crossed from the right. Robbie McDaid then headed down and from the bounce, Cameron Palmer headed unchallenged home. McDaid then had a shot well over the Glens’ bar from outside the box.
The final incident in an awful night for Glentoran was another disappointing one, as in injury time Mal Smith – whose second appearance of the season had been one of our few highlights of the evening – made a great challenge on Pepper but seemed to take a knock on the back of his head and was prone for a few minutes as the final whistle was blown. Fortunately, the stretcher wasn’t needed and Mal was able to walk to the changing room.
So with Glentoran now out of the first two trophies of the season and with only one win in seven matches, supporters will expect a very real statement of intent when Glenavon visit the Bet McLean Oval on Saturday for the start of a festive season of games that can have a major impact – positive or negative – on the title aspirations of a number of clubs, including ourselves.
Full Time: Glentoran 0-3 Linfield
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran:McCarey, Marshall, Burns McCullough, Wilson(c)(Clucas 20), Plum (Smith 46), Devlin, Wightman, Roy(McLoughlin 65), Purkis & J. Donnelly.