Glentoran came from behind twice at Windsor Park on Saturday as a late, late Jonny Addis goal earned Eddie Patterson's side a well deserved draw. Patterson used his usual 4-5-1 system with Curtis Allen supported by David Scullion and Jordan Stewart, whilst Fra McCaffrey returned to the starting line up in midfield and Marcus Kane overcame a toe injury to start at left-back.
With Glentoran fans situated in the Kop at Windsor Park for the first time ever the teams came out to rapturous applause and a superb atmosphere, however it was clear that Linfield were quickest out of the blocks as inside two minutes Sammy Morrow met Ross Clarke's cross as the Glens' defence stood still and the big number 17 guided his header into the bottom corner. The away side did try to respond quickly and on 8 minutes Curtis Allen went through on goal but was denied by a good save by Blues' 'keeper Ross Glendinning.
The away team were beginning to get a foothold on the game though, with several corners coming to nothing. But then on 12 minutes the east Belfast side's persistence paid off with a deserved equaliser. Niall Henderson's short corner eventually made its way to McCaffrey in the box who controlled, turned, beat a man and slid home to cue pandemonium in the Kop. The match was now an end-to-end affair as Linfield attack was met with Glentoran pressure but the latter should have gone in front on 21 minutes. Stephen McAlorum may want to look away now as pinball in the Railway End box saw the ball fall to the ginger midfielder's feet - only for him to open his body up too much and clip the outside of the post from 8 yards out!
The Glens defence were a little all over the place at times but the midfield and attack were really going for it as a typical derby included plenty of fight and passion. On 33 minutes Linfield went in front again as Barry Holland failed to deal with a goal kick leading to ex-Glenman Andy Waterworth racing forward, beating Holland on the wing and finding Steven Lowry who cleverly backheeled the ball past Elliott Morris. If truth be told it was a little against the run of play but a second defensive lapse in the game had punished the east Belfast outfit yet again.
Just before the half-time whistle there was a bit of a brawl in the Glens' box with McCaffrey, Jay Magee and Morrow being shown yellow cards. This cued a feisty finish to what was an entertaining half that ended 2-1 to Linfield. At the interval Kym Nelson replaced Holland with Henderson dropping back to full-back as Glentoran looked to level things and they came oh-so-close on 53 minutes as Jordan Stewart danced past challenge after challenge only to see his curling left foot shot saved fairly comfortably by Glendenning.
In what really was an end-to-end affair Waterworth nearly sealed the points for Linfield as he beat Morris, stayed on his feet when he could've gone down and was strongly challenged by Birney to clear the danger. Patterson threw Danny McKee on as the Glens really went for it with a 3-5-2 formation and the change undoubtedly worked. Another corner found Birney whose header smashed the upright before a few minutes later Glendinning dropped the ball allowing Nelson to stroke home - only for Raymond Crangle to strangely pull play back!
With 13 minutes left Scullion found himself in space on the edge of the box but opted to loft it instead of drill it and the ball sailed harmlessly over the top. With the Glens pressing they looked vulnerable on the attack however Linfield were constantly giving the ball back to a green shirt meaning the defensive frailties were not exposed. That being said it really looked as though it would be another heroic defeat as despite having the better of the chances and more possession in attacking areas Glentoran simply did not look like scoring.
Up stepped Jonny Addis who replaced Kane with about 2 minutes left on the clock. With the fantastic contingent of Glens fans in the Kop roaring the team on Scullion won yet another corner. Everyone in the stand stood with bated breath as the ball was whipped in, being headed away as far as Henderson who slammed it goalwards - taking a ricochet off McAlorum. The ball fell to Addis who swivelled and tucked it home as Glenmen went absolutely beserk in the Kop. Everyone in Blue was appealing desperately for the goal to be disallowed as they felt that the ball had been handled by McAlorum. The replays suggest they may have a case but with the ball travelling so fast and his hands being by his side it would have been difficult for the Glens' midfielder to avoid the ball. Also, with Nelson's goal unjustly ruled out earlier surely justice was done.
The game fizzled out and a deafening rendition of Bless 'Em All was sung as the Glens walked off the pitch to great applause. Jonny Addis - signed as a striker, deployed as a midfielder and now moulded into a defender - had finally got his first goal for the club after 54 appearances. Next up is a home game against Institute on Saturday 22nd November, kick off is at 3pm. Time for us to kick on and build on what was a memorable point at Windsor.
Highlights on BBC Sport NI HERE
Glentoran: Morris (capt), Holland, Kane, Birney, Magee, McAlorum, Henderson, Scullion, Stewart, McCaffrey & Allen.
Subs: Nelson for Holland (46), McKee for McCaffrey (56) and Addis for Kane (88).
We would like to offer our most sincere condolences to Glentoran first team attendant Aaron Foster. Aaron's Grandfather had been unwell in hospital and sadly he passed away only a few hours before kick-off on Saturday. It is extremely admirable that Aaron opted to carry out his role at the game despite the tragedy. Both Aaron and his family are in our thoughts at this time.