Glentoran FC

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Glentoran 2-2 Cliftonville

Wed, 07/02/2024 - 00:26

An entertaining affair at the Bet McClean Oval this evening finished 2-2, ultimately a very disappointing finish for Glentoran. . The adage of a game of two halves has never been more appropriate; Glentoran will rue their second half performance after cruising to a 2-0 half time lead. With Cliftonville forcing an equaliser deep inside second-half stoppage time, Glentoran will feel this represents two points dropped.

Glentoran started extremely brightly, creating a host of chances in the first quarter of an hour. Dáire O’Connor set the tempo, fizzing a shot past the right hand post after five minutes on the clock. Aidan Wilson twice threatened with headers from corners. In the pick of the chances, Fisher was unlucky to see his shot saved after an excellent pick out from Junior. The Glens were queuing up, roared on by the Oval faithful.

However, for all of Glentoran’s early dominance, Cliftonville also showed value on the break. Webber had to remain alert as Joe Gormley and Ronan Hale combined in the box, only for the latter to shoot over the bar after 27 minutes. Indeed, they had the ball in the net shortly after: Joe Gormley’s headed goal from a corner was ruled out after the striker was judged to be offside. Two warning shots that ensured our North Belfast opposition were to be taken seriously despite Glentoran’s hold on the match.

However, Glentoran’s pressure would pay off with a first goal in the 37th minute. Aidan Wilson – who was a threat from set pieces all night – headed in an in-swinging free kick from Bobby Burns, much to the delight of the home support. As the Oval rocked, Glentoran continued to press, and soon it was two. On the stroke of half time, a disastrous mistake from Stephen McGuinness ensured the ball fell straight to Bobby Burns on the edge of the box, who rifled the ball home. The Glens powered up the tunnel, full value for being two goals to the good.

Half Time: Glentoran 2-0 Cliftonville

Glentoran created the first chance of the second, keen to build upon their first half dominance. A mazy solo run from Dáire O’Connor had the Cliftonville defence on the ropes, only for his long-range effort to glance wide of the post.

However, the pendulum swung sharply towards Cliftonville as Ronan Hale singlehandedly dragged his side back into the match. A long-range piledriver in the 47th minute built on strong technique flew past Olly Webber, reducing the arrears to 2-1 at a critical point in the match.

Cliftonville would go on to assert their dominance with a string of chances in the second half after their spirited comeback. Marcus Kane produced a massive defensive effort to ensure Ronan Hale didn’t force home a quick Cliftonville second. An Odhran Casey header in the six-yard box was also denied by strong Aidan Wilson defending on the hour. Whatever Jim Magilton had said at half-time; it was translating onto the pitch as Cliftonville began to purr.

Warren Feeney shook things up with twenty minutes to go, introducing Shay McCartan for Junior in an attempt to reassert Glentoran’s first half dominance. Aaron Wightman would replace Dáire O’Connor shortly after. However, Cliftonville managed to create arguably the best chance of the match in the time between both changes; Sam Ashford and Stephen Mallon combined to carve open the Glentoran defence, but Ronan Hale managed to shoot straight at Olly Webber in the six yard box when it seemed easier to score.

The hammer blow hit the hearts of Glentoran supporters in three strokes during the closing stages. First, Shay McCartan failed to hit the target and seal the points after an excellent solo run placed him with only the keeper to beat in the 91st minute. Second – after pushing for an equaliser for the majority of the second half – Odhran Casey headed home Cliftonville’s second goal from a Rory Hale cross just seconds before the final whistle. Finally, there was still time for Jay Donnelly (on for only a matter of minutes after replacing David Fisher) to fire straight at the keeper from inside the six yard box.

This is a game that will be remembered for a host of chances in the first half that the home side failed to capitalise upon. The Glens could have been out of sight at half time; instead, we must dust ourselves down and go again with important matches in the race for Europe – including an Irish Cup quarter final - in the coming weeks.

Full Time: Glentoran 2-2 Cliftonville

Glentoran: Webber, Wilson, Russell, McCullough, Kane(c), Sule, Burns, Clucas, O’Connor (Wightman 79), Junior (McCartan 69)  & Fisher (J Donnelly 86)

Subs (Not used): L Donnelly, Murphy, Kelly, Lindsay.