For the third time this season a game between the Glens and the Reds was decided by a late goal and what a strike it was, Jamie McDonagh's 25-yard strike finding the top corner of the Sydenham End net. To use an old football cliche, 'it was a goal worthy of winning any game'!
Conditions were difficult with a strong breeze blowing from the Synenham End towards the City End; the opposite of what we normally experience at the Oval. However, it was great to even get a game following one of the wettest weeks in recent memory and great credit is due to groundsman William Kirkwood and his group of volunteers that come 3pm it was game on!
Mick McDermott made just one change to the starting XI from Tuesday night's disappointing defeat at Seaview, Hrvoje Plum starting in place of Joe Crowe. And of course we had Conor McMenamin and Paul O'Neill coming up against their former teams less than a week after a swop deal was finalised. Glentoran began the game attacking the City End and with less than 2 minutes on the clock Hrvoje Plum went for goal; his wind assisted shot being deflected for a corner. Shortly afterwards the excellent Rhys Marshall played a ball through to Robbie McDaid; Glentoran's number 11 bringing a fine save out of Aaron McCarey in the visitors' goal.
Skipper, Marcus Kane was next to try his luck but his 25-yard effort was blocked by the Reds' defence. Excellent chasing down by Robbie McDaid then forced a corner for the Glens. Conor McMenamin's set piece found Paddy McClean at the back post but unfortunately he couldn't direct his header on target. Cliftonville had a claim for a penalty when Barry Coffey went down in the area following a challenge by Marcus Kane. Referee, Ian McNabb though deemed that Kane had won the ball and possibly felt that Coffey had gone to ground rather too easily! Rory Hale then had a chance for Cliftonville but was well wide of the target with his 20-yard shot on 19 minutes.
On 21 minutes a poor kick out from Aaron McCarey went straight to Ruaidhri Donnelly. Donnelly controlled the ball well before slipping it to Robbie McDaid however Glentoran's leading scorer this season skied his shot well over the crossbar; a real let off for the Reds' keeper! Just before the half hour mark Conor McMenamin did well to link up with Hrvoje Plum. The Croatian midfielder's shot from just outside the area was saved by Aaron McCarey, albeit at the second attempt. 10 minutes later more excellent play by McMenamin saw him get into the area and drive a low cross right across the 6-yard box. Unfortunately there was no green shirt there to finish the move off.
Half-time: Glentoran 0-0 Cliftonville
We might have expected Cliftonville, now with the wind at their backs, to start the second half better but again it was the Glens who continued to dominate possession. A minute after the interval a right wing cross from Ruaidhri Donnelly eluded everyone in the area. The ball then came back in from the left, courtesy of Marcus Kane. It broke for Robbie McDaid in the area but once again he was thwarted by an excellent defensive block. On 48 minutes a great run by Hrvoje Plum saw him go past two defenders and get to the by-line before driving a low cross across the box. Again it fell the way of the visitors though and Jamie Harney was able to clear.
Glentoran continued to press. Robbie McDaid headed Ruaidhri Donnelly's cross over the bar and then Conor McMenamin saw his shot fly wide of the post. On the hour mark a poor kick out by Dayle Coleing went straight to Paul O'Neill. His first touch was poor though and Paddy McClean was on hand to clear the danger. Cliftonville were now beginning to exert a bit more pressure and creating a couple of chances. A Rory Hale cross-shot went wide of the post but then Glentoran were given a scare when, following excellent defensive work by Caolan Marron, Paddy McClean attempted to fire the ball out left to Marcus Kane. The ball struck Rory Hale though and fortunately for McClean and the Glens, it went straight into the welcoming arms of Dayle Coleing. A yard either side and it would have probably given the Reds the lead.
15 minutes to go and another forceful run by Cricky Gallagher presented another opportunity for McDaid but yet again his shot was blocked. On 78 minutes a cross from Marcus Kane was headed down for Rhys Marshall by substitute, Jamie McDonagh but Marshall's shot was too high. 3 minutes later Cliftonville might have taken the lead when substitute Daniel Kearns found himself free in the area. Rather than shoot first time, Kearns opted to try and go past another defender. Marron and McCullough forced him wide though but he was still able to drill a dangerous ball across the goalmouth. With no Reds player on hand to take advantage, Glentoran were able to clear.
On 83 minutes another left wing cross from MArcus Kane found Rhys Marshall but he just failed to get a decent connection. Marshall went even closer 2 minutes from time. A Corner from Jamie McDonagh was spilled by Cliftonville keeper, McCarey. Rhys Marshall latched onto the loose ball but was unlucky to see his goalbound effort deflected just over the bar.From the resulting corner Paddy McClean got his head to the ball but it was cleared off the line.
Just when we thought it was going to be another frustrating afternoon up popped Jamie McDonagh with his first goal for the Glens. Glentoran were awarded a throw-in on the left, about 10 yards from the corner flag. Luke McCullough, who had been forward for a corner took it quickly, finding Marcus Kane. Kane hooked the ball towards the 6-yard box but it was cleared by Garry Breen. Cricky Gallagher won back possession about 30 yards from goal and found Jamie McDonagh. The ball sat up nicely for McDonagh and he fired an absolute rocket into the top corner of the Sydenham End goal with his right foot. Aaron McCarey had no chance!
In stoppage time and with Cliftonville pushing forward in search of an equaliser, the Glens broke clear again with substitute Cameron Stewart finding Conor McMenamin. The Glentoran striker was fronted up in the box by former team mate Garry Breen. McMenamin got past him though and was brought down in the process. Referee McNabb pointed to the spot and produced Breen's second yellow card of the game to reduce the Reds to 10-men. With Glentoran's normal penalty taker, Robbie McDaid having been substituted a couple of minutes earlier, Cricky Gallagher stepped up. He struck the spot kick well but was denied by a fine save from Aaron McCarey, diving to his right. It was the last action of the game though and Glentoran emerged victorious.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Coleing, Marron, McCullough, McClean, Kane (c), Marshall, Plum (O'Connor 79), Gallagher, R. Donnelly (McDonagh 67), McDaid (Stewart 91) & McMenamin