It was always going to take something very special to win this very evenly contested 3rd v 4th tussle this afternoon, and it came through a wonderful solo goal from Niall McGinn on 76 minutes to give the home side a win at the Bet McLean Oval.
In front of a great crowd, Glentoran made just one change from Tuesday night’s draw with Crusaders, Cammy Palmer replacing the suspended Bobby Burns in midfield. Glens supporters were boosted by the presence of Rhys Marshall on the bench after 4 games out injured.
There was little between the teams in the first half with the Glens looking a bit sluggish after Tuesday’s epic tussle. But the home side created the first real chance after 14 minutes when Aidan Wilson heading well over from a Shay McCartan free kick.
McCartan was in similar potent form as v Crusaders and he was involved in the Glens’ next chance, a great move involving Shay and Daire O’Connor that broke down at the edge of the Cliftonville box.
The Reds finished the half as the stronger team as Sam Ashford fired over from a good chance and Aaron McCarey made a fine save from Ben Wilson
Halftime: Glentoran 0-0 Cliftonville
The Glens introduced Rhys Marshall into the midfield immediately after the break and the Lurgan man was quick to make an impressions with his ability to cover every inch of the pitch. James Singleton then had a shot deflected wide and a shot saved.
Aaron McCarey continued to earn his pay against his old club, with another top save from the in-form Ben Wilson. The Glens had a great chance on the hour when McCartan blasted over from close range. Immediately afterwards Singleton made a great run and cross but a Reds defender just beat Jay Donnelly to the ball.
The Reds were also creating chances as Daire O’Connor was booked for a foul after a Reds forward had been sent away by a long ball from defence, while Ashford shot wide when also put through on his own.
The game was effectively won on 74 minutes. McGinn, who had just replaced Junior on the left side, took a cross from O’Connor, turned Odhran Casey inside out, left him for dead before dribbling along the byline before slipping the ball past keeper Nathan Gartside and into the net from what looked an impossible angle. McGinn’s first goal of the new season and what a way to get off the mark!
There was plenty more activity at both ends, our most telling a strong effort saved from Shay McCartan, but the result means Glentoran have leapfrogged today’s opponents into third place in the Sports Direct Premiership, one point behind Crusaders and three behind early leaders Linfield.
Next is a visit to Seaview on Tuesday in the County Antrim Shield, a game where it is anticipated Warren Feeney is likely to give a chance to some of our more promising younger players,
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Wilson, McCullough (c), McClean, Singleton, Palmer (Marshall 46), Sule, McCartan, J. Donnelly (Kelly 90+3), Junior (McGinn 71) & O'Connor (Boyd 89)
Subs (Not used): Webber, Kane, Russell