Following Saturday's excellent display against Cliftonville, Glentoran were looking to follow it up with a good performance against Linfield in the first Big Two clash of the new season. Glentoran only made one change from Saturday's draw with Barry Holland making his competitive debut at left back meaning Stephen McCullough missed out.
The Glentoran Academy were unveiled before kick off to a tremendous reception from the Glentoran faithful as the Foyle Cup winning teams from our U10 and U14 age group along with our European runners-up from Berlin brought their trophies out onto The Oval pitch.
The start of the game was a cagey affair with neither side getting on top. Glentoran weren't as fluid on the ball as on Saturday and pressure seemed to mount on our half. Ivan Sproule's pace was a problem in the early stages down the right hand side but his end product was poor and Glentoran were able to snuff out the danger. Glentoran were unable to make much progress and Linfield were dictating the tempo of play.
Linfield were then dealt a blow as striker Andy Waterworth was forced off with an injury. Manager Warren Feeney made the bold decision to send himself on in Waterworth's place. Despite controlling periods of the half Linfield were unable to test Elliott Morris and as the half wore on Glentoran became more of a threat. Fra McCaffrey was starting to find space outside the box and had the best chance of the game so far when the ball fell loose in the Linfield box. Fra took his time and picked his spot as the ball fell from the sky only for his effort to agonisingly come back off the post.
It seemed the half would go in as a draw but Glentoran struck on the stroke of half time. A free kick won well by Mark Miskimmin was floated in and David Scullion came racing to the front post to meet it and head past a stranded Tuffey. Elation for Glentoran to be leading a fairly even first half.
It was expected Linfield would come out guns blazing in the second period but it was the home side who took control. Jordan Stewart was starting to become a nuisance and David Scullion's confidence from his first goal was shining through. Scullion proved this in abundance as he cut in from the left wing onto his favoured right foot and curled a fantastic effort from 20 yards beyond Tuffey and into the corner to give The Glens a 2 goal advantage.
The Glens were comfortable and in control but as always in football things can change so quickly. Sloppy defending from a corner saw Linfield come back in the game through Aaron Burns who headed in after Elliott Morris failed to connect with his punch. The goal inspired Linfield as they dictated the next ten minutes of play. Elliott Morris stopped Peter Thompson with a great save before saving again from Stephen Lowry's long range effort. Despite Elliott's heroics, a constant knee injury was bothering him meaning he couldn't hit his own goal kicks.
Just as it looked like Glentoran had weathered Linfield's storm the Blues equalised on 72 minutes when Peter Thompson raced clear on a long hopeful ball forward. He took his touch in his stride and cooly lobbed Morris to make the score 2-2. In the build up, another former Glentoran player in Sean Ward was stretchered off for The Blues. He was replaced by Glentoran's third player from the Irish Cup winning side of 2013 who has since swapped colours across the city, Jimmy Callacher.
At 2-2 the game became frantic as both sides searched for a winner. Elliott Morris, despite his injury, stopped Peter Thompson with a strong hand from a one on one before Warren Feeney burst clear again only to be denied by Glentoran's number one. Substitute Jimmy Callacher confirmed the game to be a disaster for ex-Glenmen as he was shown a second yellow card near the end of the game after a late tackle on Kym Nelson.
Linfield's late red card seemed to shift momentum again as Glentoran started to push the late winner. Willie Garrett had Glentoran's best chance in stoppage time as he rose in the six yard box only to head straight into Tuffey's arms. It looked like that was that but on the 95th minute Glentoran again failed to deal with a corner and Aaron Burns swept in from close range to send Linfield to euphoria and Glentoran to heartbreak.
Goals and managers' interviews on BBC Sport NI HERE
Photographs by Thomas Sewell.
Glentoran: Morris (c), Henderson, Garrett, Addis, Holland, McAlorum, Nelson, McCaffrey, Scullion, Stewart & Miskimmin
Subs: Howland for McAlorum, Kane for Miskimmin