Glentoran were confirmed in third place in the final Danske Bank Premiership this evening, as Crusaders were unable to capitalise on this home defeat by second placed Cliftonville.
The Glens showed a number of changes from last week’s line up, with Joe Crowe, Darren Cole, Hrvoje Plum and Rory Donnelly all drafted into the starting line-up and eighteen-year-old Aaron Wightman getting his first start in only his fifth first team appearance. Rhys Marshall, Seanan Clucas and Conor McMenamin were on the substitutes’ bench while Jay Donnelly, Caolan Marron and skipper Marcus Kane were absent from the squad.
The first goal came after a cagey first 15 minutes and involved three former Glens players giving the Reds the lead. Jonny Addis found Jamie McDonagh out right. McDonagh’s cross was headed away by Joe Crow but the unmarked Cricky Gallagher’s well hit shot from outside the box took a fortunate bounce in front of Aaron McCarey to make its way into the Glens’ net. What could have been a decisive goal in the season as at that point it took Cliftonville ahead of Linfield who were goalless at home to Coleraine.
The rest of the half saw a dominant Cliftonville create a couple of decent chances through Joe Gormley and a booking for Bobby Burns taking one for the team through a bodycheck on McDonagh.
Half Time: Glentoran 0-1 Cliftonville
The Glens made a better start to the second half when Michael O’Connor went close with a great long-range effort just wide of Luke McNicholl’s right hand post. A few minutes later Aaron McCarey was called on to make a great save from a well hit McDonagh free kick that was heading straight for the top corner.
The match moved further away from Glentoran on 67 minutes. A long ball from McDonagh found Joe Gormley just outside the Glens box. Joe Crowe headed clear despite being leant into by Gormley, but it was picked up by Ryan Curran, whose direct run beat two defenders as he got into a scoring position to slip the ball past McCarey. A continuation of Curran’s great run against the Glens, dating back to his Ballinamallard days.
By this stage, the game had lost momentum due to the news of Linfield’s two goal lead across the city. The Reds remained reasonably in control despite having lost some urgency. The only further incident of note came ten minutes before the end when Seanan Clucas, making a very effective contribution all over the park since coming on as a substitute, met a Bobby Burns corner with a fantastic bullet header to bring the Glens back into things. But there was no further meaningful action at either end.
So a disappointing end to what was at one point a promising league campaign for the Glens. The players will now start work for their vital Europa Conference Play Off Semi Final on either Tuesday 10th May or Friday 14th May, depending on the outcome of next week’s Irish Cup Final between Ballymena United and Crusaders. Whatever the date. Our semi final will be at the Bet McLean Oval.
Full Time: Glentoran 1-2 Cliftonville
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Burns, Crowe, McClean (c), Plum (Marshall 60), Powers (Bigirimana 77), Wightman (Clucas 67), Murray, (O'Connor 82), McCartan (Jenkins 67), R. Donnelly & M. O’Connor (Cushnie 60)