Glentoran were unfortunate not to come away from the National Stadium with more than a point in Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership fixture.
There were three changes to the Glentoran starting XI from last Saturday's dismal performance against Crusaders. Marcus Kane and Shay McCartan dropped to the bench for this one with Sean Murray not in the squad. In came Bobby Burns, Michael O'Connor and, wearing the captain's armband, Seanan Clucas. The large travelling Glentoran support deserved to see a reaction from the last game and they certainly got it, particularly in the first half. Indeed the Glens could have been a couple of goals in front at the break but for the post (twice) and the Linfield keeper denying them. At the other end though, another indecisive defensive moment gave the home side an extremely fortunate goal.
With 6 minutes on the clock and having seen off a Linfield corner at the Boucher Road end the Glens forced a corner of their own. Hrvoje Plum played it into the 6-yard box and Michael O'Connor back-heeled it goalwards, the ball striking the post though and going behind. Glentoran were bossing possession and O'Connor had another effort on 16 minutes but this one failed to test Chris Johns. A few minutes later Dillon Powers almost unlocked the Linfield defence with a delightful clipped ball into the box where Jay Donnelly just failed to get on the end of it. Moments later the Glens regained possession and following some neat passing on the edge of the area the ball was played for Michael O'Connor. This effort struck the post with Johns beaten.
Midway through the first half a superb pass from Michael O'Connor sent Conor McMenamin in on goal however he was denied by an excellent save from the home side's keeper. On the half hour mark Ben Hall drove forward before a challenge on the edge of the area saw the ball break kindly for Jordan Stewart but his curling shot was both high and wide of the target. It was former Glentoran player Stewart though who broke the deadlock shortly afterwards. A cross from the left wasn't cut out by Paddy McClean and Aaron McCarey wasn't able to react in time to stop the ball going in off the far post. A calamitous goal on a par with some of those conceded last weekend!
It would have been easy for the Glens to drop their heads at this stage but instead they kept going and on 36 minutes claimed a well deserved equaliser. Seanan Clucas robbed Jamie Mulgrew in midfield before playing a superb pass forward to Conor McMenamin. McMenamin, just inside the right corner of the 18-yard box side-stepped Jimmy Callagher before firing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net. A couple of minutes from the break McMenamin might have edged the Glens in front but he was denied by Johns once more.
Halftime: Linfield 1-1 Glentoran
The second half was a much more even contest. Chris McKee was well off target with an effort on 50 minutes whilst on 59 minutes Michael O'Connor was taken down by Chris Shields about 30 yards from goal. Hrvoje Plum took the free kick which flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Around the hour mark there was a chance at each end. Mulgrew set up Stewart who fired into the side netting whilst Jay Donnelly could only head Conor McMenamin's cross wide. Paddy McClean then tried his luck from distance but was wide of the goal. Midway through the half Chris McKee could have put the Blues back in front but Caolan Marron did well to block and then McCarey saved the follow up effort from Hastie.
With 10 minutes remaining a corner to the home side was headed clear and Conor McMenamin raced clear. He outpaced Mulgrew and drove into the area but his shot could only find the side netting. 4 minutes from time Jordan Stewart had a chance to win the game but Aaron McCarey made an excellent stop; Stewart heading a follow up effort wide of the post. A minute later Conor McMenamin was in action again in the Linfield penalty area but his cross shot flew across goal and beyond the far post.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: McCarey, Marshall, Marron, McClean, Burns, Clucas (c) (Kane 84), Powers (McCartan 84), Plum, O'Connor (R. Donnelly 67), J. Donnelly & McMenamin.