Glentoran FC

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Glentoran 3-2 Larne

Fri, 23/04/2021 - 23:44

It had to be 3-2 didn't it? It was "Morgan Day" after all.

Perhaps we didn't have the injury time drama this time but we did have the late winner and as the ball struck Fuad Sule and went into the Sydenham End net...   well it was near enough from the same spot Chris knocked his in 16 years ago today.

Glentoran manager, Mick McDermott reverted to his regular starting back four with Rhys Marshall moving back into midfield alongside Gael Bigirimana and Cricky Gallagher. Robbie McDaid started in attack with Jay and Rory Donnelly.

With the two sides having drawn both league encounters earlier in the season, this was always going to be another close contest. Larne had the first attempt on goal with a 30-yard free kick which Martin Donnelly fired over the crossbar. 

Glentoran took the lead on 9 minutes. Caolan Marron crossed the ball from the right and Rory Donnelly's challenge forced Thomas Cosgrove to head the ball into the 'D'. Cricky Gallagher was quickly onto it and was unlucky to see his shot blocked. The ball fell nicely for Rhys Marshall though and he buried it into the bottom corner past a despairing Conor Mitchell in the visitors' goal. 

Larne reacted well though and Davy McDaid was prominent in a couple of attacks but they were well defended by both Marron and McCullough. VAR has had it's critics in the English Premiership this season but in the 14th minute it might have made a significant difference in this game. Gael Bigirimana, who was the victim of a number of late tackles throughout the game, was hit late, very late, by Mark Randall. It could and should have resulted in a red card for the Larne midfielder but amazingly he escaped without even a caution! To make things worse, he then netted the equaliser 6 minutes later although Glentoran should really have dealt with the situation much better.

Cosgrove played a one-two with Martin Donnelly however as he got into the area Rory Donnelly seemed to have defended the situation well enough to allow Gael Bigirimana to clear the ball. The Burundi international thought the ball was running behind for a goal kick and hesitated, allowing Cosgrove to backheel the ball to John Herron. The former Glentoran midfielder's shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Luke McCullough but fell at the feet of Randall who drove it past Rory Brown from 6 yards.

A couple of minutes later Larne went in front. A cross from the left was headed away by Paddy McClean but it dropped to Thomas Cosgrove about 25 yards from goal. He struck a low shot which went past Brown and into the Sydenham End goal. Rory Brown was probably unsighted and from the replays his view was impeded by Conor McKendry who was clearly in an offside position! Things certainly weren't going the way of the home side and in the run up to the half hour mark it was to get worse. David McDaid was the next Larne player to put in a late challenge on Bigirimana and again the only punishment was a free kick. Caolan Marron then picked up a knock and was unable to continue; Ciaran O'Connor coming on to replace him in the 28th minute with Rhys Marshall reverting to the right full-back slot.

Glentoran did have a few opportunities to level the game as halftime approached, usually from free kicks. O'Connor was on the end of another late challenge and referee Evan Boyce's patience finally broke in first half stoppage time when Conor McKendry, the latest to hit Bigirimana, went in the book.

Halftime: Glentoran 1-2 Larne

The next goal in this game was always going to be critical and Glentoran were given a geat opportunity to grab it on 52 minutes when Conor Mitchell picked up what the official determined was a back pass. The indirect free kick was played to Rory Donnelly but his shot was blocked as was the follow up effort from Ciaran O'Connor. The ball then broke for Rhys Marshall but he drove it wide of the target. A couple of minutes later Larne might have killed the game off. David McDaid worked himself into a great shooting position in the Glentoran penalty area but shot across goal and past the far post. McDaid had another glorious opportunity shortly afterwards when a Larne free kick was deflected high into the air but fell kindly for the Larne number 10. His header went high and wide when well placed.

Just before the hour mark the Glens almost grabbed an equaliser. Rory Donnelly's cross from the left was partially cleared but sat nicely for Ciaran O'Connor on the edge of the area. He connected well but unlike Tuesday night, was off target. Moments later Cricky Gallagher tried to find Jay Donnelly in the area but veteran defender, Albert Watson got there just ahead of the Glentoran marksman and put the ball behind for a corner. It was to be the industrious Gallagher's last contribution as Mick McDermott opted to introduce another striker to try and pick uip at least a point; Andrew Mitchell coming on. It was a positive move with Larne clearly tiring and it was to pay off later in the game.

Just past the midway point of the second half Ciaran O'Connor clipped a delightful ball over the top of the Larne defence for Jay Donnelly to run on to. It was a tight angle but Donnelly's strike was both powerful and on target, forcing Mitchell to save with his feet. The pressure was mounting though and the Larne defence was finally breached again on 70 minutes. Rory Donnelly played a ball from inside his own half towards Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell missed the ball but Jay Donnelly got the better of Jeff Hughes and went through one on one with the Larne keeper. Jay's finish was both cool and clinical and we were all level at 2 apiece.

On 79 minutes Fuad Sule was allowed to travel with the ball unchallenged and unleashed a great effort from around 30 yards. Initially it looked like the ball had just cleared the crossbar but the TV replays showed that it was actually a great fingertip save fromGlentoran keeper, Rory Brown. A minute later both Robbie McDaid and Jay Donnelly had efforts cleared off the line with the ball eventually being turned behind for a corner. Andrew Mitchell took the corner from the left, swinging it into the 6-yard box. Fuad Sule, focussing his attention on Rory Donnelly, was late seeing the ball arriving and unlucky to see it come off his leg and into the net.......... from just about that same spot as Chris Morgan knocked it home 16 years ago. 

Larne tried to fight back but the Glentoran midfield and defence was resolute. Indeed the best two chances in the closing stages both fell for the home side. A 30-yard free kick from Dale Gorman forced an excellent save from the Larne keeper and then in stoppage time Jay Donnelly's dipping shot was just over the bar. 4-2 would have been nice but today of all days it could only have been 3-2. I wonder what odds Paul McLean would have given on that repeat scoreline? It was great to have Glentoran's principal sponsor of many years at the game tonight and he left a happy man. Glentoran remain in second place. Next up........who's the split and the fight for European qualification.

Photographs by PACEMAKER

Glentoran: Brown, Marron (O'Connor 28), Kane (c), McCullough, McClean, Bigirimana, Gallagher (Mitchell 61), Marshall, McDaid (Gorman 82), R. Donnelly & J. Donnelly.