It was honours even at the Oval this afternoon as League leaders Cliftonville fought back from a goal down at half time. The Glens welcomed back leading scorer Andy Waterworth and midfielder Eamonn Murray from injury while young centre back Willie Garrett made his debut alongside Jimmy Callacher.
Waterworth made his presence felt after just three minutes when he got the better of former Glens defender Jaimie McGovern on the bye line but his shot from a tight angle was well saved by Conor Devlin in the Cliftonville goal. The Glens were the better team in the first half but the League’s leading scorer Liam Boyce was a constant threat for the visitors and Elliott Morris had to be quickly off his line to save well at his feet with five minutes on the clock. At the other end Waterworth continued to cause the visiting defence problems and on thirteen minutes latched onto a clearance from Morris to run clear on goal but Devlin did well to deflect the shot for a corner. Devlin denied Waterworth yet again after twenty seven minutes when he broke this time down the right but the angle was against him.
After half an hour Garrett almost marked his debut with a goal; a Glens corner was cleared to Mark Clarke who returned the ball to the far post where Garrett’s header back across goal just shaved the post. Cliftonville’s best chance of the half came two minutes before the break when Boyce’s close range header looked to be heading goalwards but the ball struck his team mate Joe Gormley on the back and was cleared. Just as it looked as though we would go into the break scoreless Richard Clarke won a free kick twenty five yards out when fouled by Marc Smyth. Jimmy Callacher stepped up and curled a superb free kick into the top corner giving Devlin no chance.
The second half started with Cliftonville giving a much better account of themselves but there were few openings for either side. Indeed the first incident of note didn’t take place until the hour mark and it was something of a bizarre one. Referee Arnold Hunter was involved in an accidental collision with Cliftonville’s George McMullan and, after receiving lengthy treatment, had to be stretchered off with what looked like quite a serious head injury to be replaced by fourth official Ian McNabb. The break seemed to have an adverse effect on the Glens as within a couple of minutes Cliftonville substitute Stephen Garrett was almost gifted an equaliser by Callacher when his short back pass had to be hastily cleared by Morris. However it wasn’t long before the visitors were back on level terms. McMullan found Boyce twenty yards out and his volley on the turn flew over Morris and into the back of the net. While Boyce’s goal was right out of the top drawer he did not exactly cover himself in glory as he chose to celebrate in front of the home stand rather than his own fans and was fortunate to escape a booking from Mr McNabb. Boyce almost gave Cliftonville the lead after eighty six minutes when he got his head to a James Knowles corner but the ball clipped off the top of the cross bar.
The earlier delays resulted in eight minutes of stoppage time being added on and on ninety four minutes the Glens almost snatched a winner. Garrett managed to get a touch on a right wing corner and the ball looked to be creeping just inside the post until Devlin brilliantly clawed it to safety. Cliftonville finished the game with ten men when right on the whistle Marc Smyth received his second yellow and subsequent red for a foul on Martin Murray. The resulting free kick proved to be fruitless and both teams headed home with a point.
Highlights from BBC Sport NI HERE
Elliott Morris, Sean Ward, Jimmy Callacher, Willie Garrett, Jason Hill, Eamonn Murray (sub Jim O’Hanlon 67 mins), Richard Clarke (sub Stephen McAlorum 92 mins), Mark Clarke, David Howland, Stephen Carson (sub Martin Murray 86 mins), Andy Waterworth