It was a strange game in many ways and one which both teams will feel they could have won. Certainly at the interval most of the Glentoran contingent would have gladly accepted a point but by the time the final whistle sounded it felt like a defeat.
The home side dominated the first half - dominated but rarely tested Dayle Coleing in the Glentoran goal. The Glens meanwhile looked like a group of players who hadn't had a game in 3 weeks and seemed to lack the sort of passion normally associated with a 'Big Two' derby.
Perhaps the lack of fans in the National Stadium was a factor but apart from a couple of Paddy McClean headers from corner kicks, both off target, Chris Johns was a virtual spectator in the opening period. Other than a 25 yard effort from Kyle McClean on 20 minutes which flew wide of the post the only other meaningful first half attempt ended with the Blues going in front. The goal was credited to former Glentoran player Jordan Stewart but in reality it was a shot from a narrow angle which Dayle Coleing should have dealt with better.
Halftime: Linfield 1-0 Glentoran
Mick McDermott made a change at the break, Ciaran O'Connor replacing the ineffective Cameron Stewart. The Glens now had more of a presence in midfield and it wasn't long before they drew level. Robbie McDaid picked the ball up on the left and cut inside, leaving both Pepper and Mulgrew in his wake. McDaid's shot from the edge of the area was spilled by Chris Johns and Paul O'Neill was on hand to knock the ball past the Linfield keeper and into the net. O'Neill went close again on 52 minutes, getting his head to a cross from the right but this time his effort flashed wide.
O'Neill almost turned provider on 62 minutes; his superb cross from the right evading both Jay Donnelly and Chris Johns but the ball broke kindly for the home side and was cleared. 3 minutes later and a mix up between stand-in skipper Seanan Clucas and Dayle Coleing resulted in referee Gregg awarding the home side a penalty! Although Clucas's touch was poor Coleing did appear to clear the ball out for a throw in before colliding with Fallon! Lavery took the spot kick and although Coleing got a decent hand on it he couldn't keep the ball out.
It didn't take Glentoran long to level things up though. A superb ball from Dale Gorman found Jay Donnelly in the box and he controlled it well before firing past a helpless Johns. With 15 minutes left Glentoran were reduced to 10 men. A long ball forward saw Coleing and Lavery in a race to win possession. The Glentoran custodian got there first but inexplicably missed the ball and instead connected with the Linfield striker. Referee Gregg had no hesitation in producing a deserved red card and whilst his decision to award a penalty 10 minutes earlier was open to question, this was the correct decision.
The Glens brought on Rory Brown for the unfortunate Cricky Gallagher and Brown was in action straight away, the young keeper doing well to hold on to Kirk Millar's free kick. With 5 minutes remaining a Millar cross was met at the near post by Lavery but his effort was wide of the goal. Then with 87 minutes gone the Glens went in front for the first time. Paul O'Neill fed Jay Donnelly and he in turn picked out strike parner Robbie McDaid. McDaid, in acres of space, brought the ball under control and calmly found the bottom corner. When Paddy McClean cleared a Linfield effort off the line in the final minute it looked like the Glens would see the game out but they were reduced to just 9 men in the second of five added minutes when Clucas fouled Nasseri in midfield.
Still the Glens defended well but in the final minute of added time a cross from the right was met at the back post by Jimmy Callagher and his header past Brown grabbed a point for the home side. So much for the management team to ponder ahead of Dungannon Swifts visit to the Oval on Saturday. The positive second half performance was certainly something to build. A win to kick start our lague campaign is very much needed.
Photographs by PACEMAKER
Glentoran: Coleing, Clucas (c), McClean, Marron, McCullough, Gallagher (Brown 76), Gorman (Bigirimana 82), O'Neill, J. Donnelly, Stewart (O'Connor 46) & McDaid.