Glentoran ended a run of four games without a win in the best possible style with a Robbie McDaid injury time Boxing Day winner over Linfield.
The afternoon started with the presentation of lifetime membership by Chairman Stephen Henderson to league winning Glentoran players and managers Roy Coyle, Tommy Jackson and Ronnie McFall. When the teams took the pitch there were four changes from Saturday’s starting line up with Willie Garrett in for the suspended Jonny Addis and James Knowles, Daniel Kelly and Jonathan Smith in for Corey McMullan, Eric Foley and Robbie McDaid who all moved to the bench.
Linfield’s usually highly influential captain Jamie Mulgrew left the action after eight minutes to be replaced by Stephen Lowry. Immediately afterwards the Glens had a goal disallowed when a composed finish from Jonathan Smith was ruled offside.
Six minutes later things looked like becoming difficult for the Glens when Elliott Morris went down holding his back. However Elliott, who has been in outstanding form all season, was soon up and gave a flawless performance in the remaining eighty minutes.
Our first potent attacking move came in the 21st minute when Dan Kelly found James Knowles on the right. Knowles put a good ball into the Linfield area to Jonathan Smith but it was just too long for Bobo to get a shot away. Two minutes later Linfield had the chance of an opener when an effort from corner following a great block by Willie Garrett (playing his first match at the Oval since Halloween 2015) was headed off the line by Calum Birney.
Linfield opened the scoring after 25 minutes when Lowry put Cameron Stewart through for a confident finish to put the blues in front. Stewart had a similar chance immediately after the restart but this time he put it well wide.
Our equaliser came on 43 minutes when a well flighted free kick from Knowles was touched on to where Curtis Allen was more alert than the Linfield defence and shot comfortably clear of Carroll in the Linfield goal. Curtis’ celebration showed the importance of his goal after an uncharacteristic lean spell.
The first real chance of the second half saw Elliott Morris, clearly recovered from his earlier injury, pull off a great save when Stafford had a free header from a corner after 54 minutes. Four minutes later the Glens made a substitution when Robbie McDaid replaced Jonathan Smith upfront.
The biggest talking point of the match to date came in the 64th minute when Mark Stafford cut Marcus Kane down with a nasty challenge. Stafford somehow avoided even a yellow card for the foul but in the immediate aftermath there was an altercation between Stafford and Dylan Davidson for which both players were booked. The feeling in the grandstand was that if the referee had dealt firmly with Stafford’s original foul the follow up would have been avoided.
The match really came to life in the first minute of injury tome when the Glens took the lead. A great surging run from Marcus Kane ended with a pass to Robbie McDaid wide on the left. Robbie cut in and hit a strong right foot shot which was deflected off Linfield’s Ross Clarke into the net. 2-1. In the aftermath Dylan Davidson was shown a second yellow card for “over celebrating”. A needless punishment that means Dylan will miss our next match at Dungannon on Saturday.
Immediately following the goal Gary Haveron replaced Curtis Allen with Ross Redman and James Knowles was booked for a foul on Robert Garrett (the foul looked the other way around). There was one more moment of drama in the final seconds of injury time when Linfield’s Mark Haughey had a goal disallowed for offside. The finish was similar to Curtis Allen’s earlier goal but video highlights clearly showed that the linesman close to the play had flagged for offside at an early stage. Nevertheless it was brave refereeing by Ian McNabb who had earlier been criticised for his handling of the Stafford/Davidson incident.
It seems the winning goal may have been “officially” credited as a Matthew Clarke OG. However Gary Haveron was having none of it: “We’ve heard it called an own goal and even that Curtis got the final touch. But Curtis isn’t claiming it and there was no way any deflection was big enough to change the credit. Robbie made great space for himself for that goal and we’re all adamant it’s his goal. He deserves it.”
Robbie was delighted: “That goal and the celebration was the greatest experience I’ve had in football so far. When I was at Omagh United Under 12s my Dad (ex Glens striker John McDaid) was my coach and even at that level when we played theur Under 12s he used to hammer it into me that if I couldn’t get up for doing it against Linfield with our family background I shouldn’t be playing football. We played really well at Windsor in September and got nothing out of it so that was really sweet for everyone today. It hopefully sets us up for a run now and also get me on a personal scoring run.”
Photographs by Pacemaker and Thomas Sewell
Glentoran: Morris, Kerr, K. Nelson, Birney, Garrett, Kane (c), Kelly, Knowles, Davidson, Smith & Allen
Subs: McDaid for Smith (59) & Redman for Allen (90+2)
Unused Subs: McNicholl, McMullan & Foley