NIFL Premiership: Cliftonville 0-2 Glentoran
CLIFTONVILLE’S seven-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering end on Tuesday evening as second half goals from Rory Donnelly and Ciaran O’Connor saw Glentoran leave Solitude with a 2-0 win that sees them leap Coleraine into second place in the table.
A nervy encounter came to life with Donnelly slotting home on the hour-mark mark against his former club and it was a blow that Paddy McLaughlin’s side failed to recover from as substitute Ciaran O’Connor rifled home a second late on.
Speaking after the game, Cliftonville first team coach Kris Lindsay felt his side didn’t do enough to win, but didn’t deserve to lose the game either.
“It was disappointing tonight - I don’t think we did enough to win the game, but I don’t think we deserved to lose it,” Lindsay reflected.
“It was frantic and there wasn’t really much quality play from either team, which was disappointing. I thought we actually got the ball down a little bit better after we conceded, but then we tried to force things a little bit too much too early.
“We’ll learn from it. The boys are disappointed, but it’s important they don’t get too down.
“We’ve massive games coming up and the good thing about the league this year is that you always have games coming thick and fast and we’ve on Saturday against Carrick which we will now turn our full focus to.”
Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin named an unchanged side from Saturdays 2-1 victory at Portadown as Garry Breen kept his place in the centre of defence in the absence of Jamie Harney.
Cliftonville had the first half chance of the evening when the ball was cushioned into Rory Hale whose snapshot was held low down by Rory Brown.
A few minutes later a delicious cross from the right by Jamie McDonagh was met by Jay Donnelly whose header was pushed over the bar by Aaron McCarey. Donnelly had another sighting of goal, but a headed clearance from Garry Breen denied the ex-Reds striker.
It was a quite opening half with chances few and far between, the next opportunity saw Andrew Mitchell capitalise on in-decision in the Cliftonville defence, though he hooked his effort over the bar.
Moments later Rory Donnelly crossed from the left and Jay Donnelly’s volley was blocked on the line by Garry Breen as the half ended scoreless. Patrick McClean and Rory Hale both had half chances at the beginning of the second half and Hale again went close with a low effort that was a few inches past the post.
However, the deadlock was broken on the stroke of the hour mark by a familiar source. Cliftonville may have felt aggrieved not be have awarded a free-kick as Ronan Doherty went down, but play continued and a neat interchange between Robbie McDaid and Jay Donnelly saw Andrew Mitchell in space and he rolled the ball across the face of goal where Rory Donnelly had the simplest of tap-ins to make it 1-0.
Donnelly almost doubled his and Glentoran’s tally with an audacious effort from range that was a few yards over the crossbar. Cliftonville huffed and harried as they tried to force an equaliser, yet they were caught out with three minutes remaining as Glentoran wrapped up all three points.
An angled drive from Rory Donnelly was parried by Aaron McCarey and Glens substitute Ciaran O’Connor showed the desire to thump the loose ball home and ensure the win for his side.
Thereafter the Glens ran out 2-0 winners to leapfrog Coleraine into second in the table and in the process move into pole position for automatic European qualification.
Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin was dismissed at the final whistle for complaints surrounding a possible foul on Doherty in the build-up to the opening goal.
Elsewhere on Tuesday night, Glenavon returned to winning ways after edging out Warrenpoint Town 4-3 in a thrilling encounter at Milltown. The Lurgan Blues were 4-1 up at the interal following a brace from Danny Purkis with further goals from Matthew Fitzpatrick and an own goal from Danny Wallace.
However, Ryan Swan’s header kept the Town in the contest and they rallied after the break with goals from Adam Carroll and Fra McCaffrey.
Glenavon held out for the three points to keep themselves in contention for a top-six finish.
However, Larne’s chances of automatic qualification for Europe suffered a huge blow when they slipped to a surprise 2-1 defeat to Portadown at Shamrock Park. Stephen Teggart’s fine strike put the hosts in front, but Larne hit back just after the hour mark through Josh Robinson.
Larne looked the more likely team to nick the win, but it was Portadown who pounced with the winner thanks to Lee Bonis in the second minute of injury-time.
CLIFTONVILLE: McCarey, Lowe, Breen, O’reilly (O’Doherty 46), Donnelly, C Curran (Kearns 64), Bagnall, Hale, O’Connor, R Curran, McCrudden (O’Neill 64).
GLENTORAN: Brown, Bigirimana, Gallagher, McDonagh (McDaid 56), R Donnelly, Mitchell (Plum 63) (O’Connor 84), McClean, Crowe, Marron, Marshall, J Donnelly.
REFEREE: C Morrison.