A 71st minute equaliser from Jay Donnelly gave Glentoran a 1-1 draw over fourth placed Larne in the Danske Bank Premiership at Inver Park this evening.
Mick McDermott made just one change from Friday’s win at Carrick, Robbie McDaid replacing Rory Donnelly in attack. McDaid had the first serious effort of the evening when he shot over after six minutes. This was followed by efforts from Larne, also over the bar from Herron and Doherty.
Larne had the balance of the play for most of the first half although the Glens defence was commanding and more than equal to anything thrown at them. To the point that Ross Glendinning was only forced into one real save in the half, a low shot from left back Liam Kelly on thirty-seven while Conor McMenamin had made a great block tackle to deprive Ronan Hale of an excellent opportunity to score ten minutes earlier.
The Glens also had efforts from McDaid (again), Donnelly and Clucas, but there was little meaningful threat to either goal and no one was surprised we reached half time scoreless.
Half Time: Larne 0-0 Glentoran
The Glens had to make an enforced change at the break as Caolan Marron, who had been outstanding to that point, was substituted as a precautionary measure and replaced by Joe Crowe. Crowe was in midfield with Like McCullough reverting to centre back.
The second half was only three minutes old when Larne took the lead. The goal had a very familiar look about it as former Glens midfielder John Herron met a Ben Doherty free kick with a relatively free header. The following minute Jay Donnelly was booked by referee Keith Kennedy for fouling Faud Sule who it must be said was all over Donnelly so the foul could have been given either way.
The Glens made a tactical switch on the hour when Mal Smith replaced Seanan Clucas. Mal went straight to right back with Rhys Marshall moved to midfield. Smith – as has been the case in all his first team appearances to date – looked very comfortable both in defence and when in attack.
Next incidents for discussion came on 67 and 69 minutes when each team had a legitimate penalty claim rejected. First Jay Donnelly was scythed down in the Larne box then Ronan Hale seemed to be fouled at the other end. Referee Kennedy ignored both claims.
By this stage the Glens were the dominant force, and the equaliser finally came after 69 minutes. Mal Smith was sent away on the right by Luke McCullough, His deep cross was parried by the keeper under pressure from Rory Donnelly (on as sub for McDaid). Both Rhys Marshall and Rory (again) had efforts before finally Jay Donnelly turned the ball home. Donnelly continued his remarkable run of scoring form that has yielded eleven goals from his last ten appearances. A player truly on fire.
The Glens continued to press, and in the closing minutes both Bobby Burns and Ben Cushnie (on for Plum) had good efforts hit the side netting. But most objective observers would agree that a draw was the fairest outcome in the end.
This result extended our unbeaten run to six games, but with three of our last four league games drawn. With the first full round of eleven fixtures completed, the Glens sit in fifth place, three points behind Larne and eight points behind leaders Cliftonville. Next up for the Glens is a visit to the Bet McLean Oval by Warrenpoint Town on Saturday.
Full Time: Larne 1-1 Glentoran
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Glendinning, Marshall (Bigirimana 81), Burns, Marron (Crowe 46), McClean (c), McCullough, Plum (Cushnie 69), Clucas (Smith 59), McDaid (R. Donnelly 69), J. Donnelly & McMenamin