Glentoran 1-2 Cliftonville
Jay Donnelly’s injury-time strike earned Cliftonville all three points from today’s Danske Bank Premiership opener with Glentoran.
Aside from a brief spell in the first-half – during which John McGuigan put the hosts in front – the Reds dominated proceedings at The Oval and, though their bossing of the play didn’t translate into efforts on goal, they rectified that when Joe Gormley clipped home a leveller ahead of Donnelly’s last-gasp intervention.
The afternoon had started with an emotional minute’s applause for former Glens and Cliftonville striker Ron Manley, who sadly passed away over the summer but whose memory was honoured with the official opening of a suite named in his honour at The Oval earlier in the day.
The opening exchanges of the match delivered few highlights with Gormley and Peter McMahon shooting off-target at either end of the park.
Having enjoyed much the brighter start, the Reds’ control waned a little as the first-half progressed and they were grateful to debutant goalkeeper Richard Brush for racing off his line to thwart Curtis Allen inside the box.
The breakthrough came soon later, however, when Nathan Kerr’s cross wasn’t fully cleared and Glentoran captain Marcus Kane teed McGuigan up to finish via the base of the far post.
Cliftonville emerged reinvigorated after the interval but, despite dominating the play, were routinely frustrated when they worked the ball into the final third of the pitch; Ryan Curran blazing one attempt over the bar before failing to make a clean connection when namesake Chris had delivered a low cross from the left flank.
There was no question that an equaliser would have been deserved and it duly arrived when the Currans teamed up on the right before Chris picked out Gormley for a well-taken first-time finish.
Brush did well to stop a McGuigan header sneaking in at the back post as Glentoran set about regaining their advantage, while Donnelly was denied by Elliott Morris after being played through on goal by a delightful Levi Ives pass.
The winner would come deep in injury-time and owed much to the persistance of young substitute Thomas Maguire who, having been clattered by Ross Redman, picked himself up after Conor McMenamin had seized possession and sent the visitors on one final forward foray.
When the ball fell Maguire’s way, he found himself bundled over again but refused to give up the fight and eventually dinked over a cross which, though too high for Gormley to get a telling touch on, fell perfectly for Donnelly to rifle home and secure three fully merited points for the Reds.
Cliftonville: Brush, McGovern, Ives, C Curran, R Curran, Bagnall, Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, McMenamin, A Donnelly. Subs: Neeson, White (McGovern, 85 mins), McConnell, Lavery, Maguire (C Curran, 76 mins), Conn, McNulty.