NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 1–2 Glentoran  

JAY Donnelly’s double either side of the break ensured that Glentoran came from behind to leapfrog Cliftonville in second place in the Danske Bank Premiership with a 2-1 win at Solitude on Monday evening. 

Jamie McDonagh’s delightful opener gave Paddy McLaughlin’s side the lead but Donnelly hit back on the stroke of half-time and headed home the winner early in the second half despite a Cliftonville second half onslaught for a share of the spoils. 

Reds’ boss Paddy McLaughlin rued the disappointment of losing goals either side of the break and felt his should have dealt with the situations better. 

“It’s disappointing,” admits McLaughlin. 

“I think in the second half we conceded early, the first mistake that we made in the game was giving away the soft goal right on half-time. We’d the ball up the far end of the pitch and we gave it away cheap, and they broke and scored, which they should never have done. We’re disappointed with that. 

“Then five minutes into the second half Glentoran came out with a wee bit of bite between their teeth. 

“I don’t think we managed the first five minutes well. We looked like we were wobbling a wee bit with a couple of strikes on goal and a couple of corners. That’s when you’re hoping that your experience in the squad.

“I’m not saying the senior players - I’m saying as team and as players - you use your experience to take the sting out of that momentum that Glentoran had at the start of the second half. 

“It was just lacking a wee bit and from then on in I think we took control of the game, but it was only really because we went behind.

“We should have stayed in control right throughout. I thought we were very good in the first half, we nullified Glentoran down to nothing and in the second half, that momentum they came out with, we didn’t manage it well enough and it took us to go behind to regain control of the game. But we shouldn’t have really been chasing the game because we were well in control up until then.” 

Jamie McDonagh celebrates giving Cliftonville an early lead

Jamie McDonagh celebrates giving Cliftonville an early lead

Chris Gallagher returned to face his former club after missing four weeks through injury making his comeback in the Irish Cup win over Islandmagee. Hat-trick scorer Joe Gormley also retained his place in the starting 11. 

Cliftonville had an early penalty appeal waved away when Paddy McClean appeared to clip the heels of Joe Gormley in the area, but referee Andrew Davey waved away the subsequent appeals. 

The deadlock was broken after five minutes when Kris Lowe fed an inside pass to Jamie McDonagh who looked up and curled the ball beyond the dive of Aaron McCarey and into the top corner for his third goal of the season. 

Former Glens winger McDonagh flashed an effort wide and then wriggled free in the area and saw his shot tipped behind by McCarey. The resulting corner dropped to Ronan Doherty in the area and the Glens’ ’keeper to smothered the midfielder’s low drive. 

Glentoran didn’t threaten the Cliftonville goal until just before the half hour mark when two chances arrived: Robbie McDaid skipped down the line and produced a back post cross that Rory Donnelly headed wide of the post, then Jay Donnelly had a back header that Luke McNicholas held onto. 

On 36 minutes, Ronan Doherty lost possession cheaply and Jay Donnelly latched onto the loose ball, but his low shot was gathered by McNicholas. 

Donnelly clips home the equaliser

Donnelly clips home the equaliser

Just before the break, a quickly taken McDonagh free-kick drew a save from McCarey and just as it looked as though Cliftonville would take a 1-0 lead into the interval, they were pegged back. 

A precise Robbie McDaid pass sent Rhys Marshall scampering down the line and his cross was flicked in via the post by Jay Donnelly to make It 1-1. 

Glentoran made a fast opening to the second half as Sean Murray’s effort from distance was clawed behind on the stretch by Luke McNicholas and the Reds’ ’keeper needed to get a glove to Paddy McClean’s header from the resulting corner. 

The visitors made their pressure pay from a further set-piece as Hrvoje Plum delivered an inch-perfect cross that Jay Donnelly flashed home for his second of the evening. 

Cliftonville were almost back on terms midway through the second half when Jamie McDonagh was clipped but able to play advantage and his driven shot was parried by Aaron McCarey. Ronan Doherty’s follow-up was blocked and fell back to McDonagh who saw a second effort charged down with Kris Lowe slicing an effort over the bar. 

With little under a quarter of an hour remaining, Levi Ives’ corner was met by Jonny Addis, but his header was gathered on the line by McCarey. 

Chris Gallagher challenges Rory Donnelly

Chris Gallagher challenges Rory Donnelly

The hosts were beginning to turn the screw as another Ives corner was spilt as McCarey attempted to clear. Jonny Addis hoisted it back into the mix and Daniel Kearns shot on the turn was narrowly wide. 

The pressure continued and a magnificent thumping shot from Kris Lowe was turned behind by McCarey. 

Glentoran had the opportunity to kill the game off on a breakaway attack, but Seanas Clucas shot clipped the bar on the way over. 

A succession of corners followed for Cliftonville in injury time and Luke McNicholas joined the attack, but it came to nothing in the end though as Glentoran held on for a 2-1 victory. 

CLIFTONVILLE: McNicholas, McDermott (Kearns 59), Addis, Turner, Ives, Lowe, Doherty, Gallagher (C Curran 70), McDonagh (O’Neill 76), R Curran, Gormley. 

GLENTORAN: McCarey, Burns, Marshall, J Donnelly (O’Connor 78), R Donnelly, McDaid, Murray (Crowe 68), McClean, Clucas, Marron, Plum. 

REFEREE: Andrew Davey