An injury time strike from Jay Donnelly snatched the first 3 points of the new season at The Oval this afternoon. Donnelly’s goal followed a second half equaliser from Joe Gormley after John McGuigan had put Glentoran in front. For the opening game of this new NIFL Premiership season Glens manager Ronnie McFall chose to start new signing Conor Pepper after the 24 year old Dubliner signed on Tuesday and fellow new face Nigel Prentice was named among the substitutes.
Prior to this afternoon’s match tributes were paid to Glentoran legend Ron Manley. Ron, an integral member of the Glentoran teams of the 1980s, sadly passed away earlier in the summer and today, joined with Ron’s teammates, family, friends and representatives of Ron’s former side Cliftonville, Glentoran were delighted to open the new Ron Manley suite. Both sides held a minutes applause before the game to pay tribute to a legend and a man who had represented both sides with class throughout his career.
A large crowd was on hand at The Oval and they saw the season get off to a tentative start as both teams seemed reluctant to risk mistakes early on. The only real attacking action in the opening 15 minutes saw Joe Gormley fire well over from range whilst Peter McMahon shot similarly wayward for the home side. The first real chance of the game fell to former Glentoran forward Conor McMenamin, he exchanged a neat one two with Gormley and had time and space 12 yards out but tamely dragged his shot into a crowd of Glentoran defenders. Having seen Cliftonville dominate large parts of the opening half hour, Glentoran began to come into the game, John McGuigan tried to play Curtis Allen behind the reds defence but perhaps should have looked to Conor Pepper who was surging through the middle of the park unmarked. Shortly after Marcus Kane glanced a header wide from an excellent Ross Redman delivery and there was a sense around The Oval that Glentoran were settling down. Two minutes later the breakthrough arrived.
Dylan Davidson did well to work to the byeline on the right wing, he found Nathan Kerr in support, Kerr’s cross wasn’t dealt with and captain Marcus Kane worked possession left to John McGuigan who calmly clipped the ball beyond Richard Brush and in off the far post. For the remainder of the first half the teams exchanged half chances, the only moments of danger were Jay Donnelly’s free kick into the wall and a rasping drive from Marcus Kane which was straight at Richard Brush.
Half Time Glentoran 1-0 Cliftonville.
Neither side opted for any half time changes but it was clear that Cliftonville came out with renewed attacking intent and Glentoran began to sit deeper and deeper, seemly inviting pressure from the visitors. Then Glens got a warning when summer signing Ryan Curran scuffed wide after good work from McMenamin of the left wing, Gormley then poked a shot straight at Morris and Curran blazed well over after more build up work from Gormley. Unfortunately for the home side the pressure eventually told. Chris Curran made a great run behind Redman and he had too much time to pick out Gormley who gave Morris no chance as he swept the ball home first time to level the game. Glentoran tried to rebound and created a chance with a neat passage of play between Davidson, Kane and Redman. Redman swung the cross over for McGuigan
to head down towards Dan Kelly but the substitute never got the chance to finish as keeper Brush denied the Glens and swept the ball away.
At the other end Cliftonville continued to press for the winner, Nathan Kerr rescued the Glens with 5 minutes remaining, nipping in to clear the ball from a waiting Donnelly. However, the game ended with some stoppage time drama, Peter McMahon almost won it for the Glens with a neat turn and cross/shot which Brush was just able to pluck out of the air. From there, Cliftonville launched a counter and won the game. Substitute Maguire crossed towards Gormley, he couldn’t connect but Jay Donnelly did, smashing the ball into the far corner to
send The Reds back to Solitude with all three points. A bitter pill to swallow for Glentoran, losing so late, but Cliftonville probably deserved their win on the balance of the 90 minutes.
McFall and his management team will be looking to rebound when we visit Ards next Saturday.
Full Time Glentoran 1-2 Cliftonville
Photographs by Pacemaker
Glentoran: Morris, Kerr, Birney, Garrett, Redman, McMahon, Pepper, Kane (c), Davidson (McCarthy
75), McGuigan, Allen (Kelly 75). Subs not used. Gordon, Prentice, Ferrin, Henderson, Nelson.
Sponsor: Today's match was sponsored by the members of the Ballymacarrett Glentoran Supporters Club. We thank them for their support.