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Friday night delight

Glentoran 0-1 Cliftonville

Cliftonville stormed to a dramatic late victory over Glentoran at The Oval, where Joe Gormley’s 84th minute header sealed three deserved points just when time looked to be running out.

The Reds dominated possession throughout and could arguably have been four goals to the good come the interval but, crucially, maintained their confident dictation if play after the break, which was exacerbated when home striker Darren Murray got himself needlessly sent off when he picked up a second yellow card for ignoring the referee’s instruction to leave the pitch at the nearest point when being substituted.

The man disadvantage inevitably led to the Glens sitting even deeper and, with spaces in behind now harder to come by, the hosts looked set to frustrate Cliftonville by grinding out a goalless draw until Gormley popped up with a close-range header from Conor McMenamin’s knockdown.

Despite being fully deserving of their win, the Reds were nevertheless grateful to Richard Brush, who produced a goalkeeping masterclass to thwart Glentoran on three separate occasions in injury-time, most notably a gravity-defying one-handed save from John Herron’s towering header.

Things could have been a lot more comfortable had the visitors been able to make any of their first-half chances count, with McMenamin first to threaten with a low drive that keeper Marijan Antolovic made a mess of, with Ruaidhri Donnelly unable to convert before a defender raced in to clear off the line.

Soon later, Antolovic was quick off his line to deny Donnelly but, in attempting to deal with Gormley’s follow-up, he touched the ball back into Donnelly’s path and was grateful to Cameron Stewart for the goal-line block – with referee Steven Gregg unmoved by the Reds’ handball claims.

Gormley then went close to breaking the deadlock on new fewer than three occasions; firstly with a stinging free-kick that was repelled by the keeper, the he lost his footing when well placed inside the area before failing to make a connection with a fantastic McMenamin delivery.

The Reds maintained their dominance after the interval with Donnelly and McMenamin both going close before the hosts were reduced to 10 men when Murray twice disregarded the referee’s instruction over where to leave the field when being substituted, thus earning himself a second card.

It took until the final minutes for Cliftonville to take full advantage, with Gormley sticking his head out to divert McMenamin’s knockdown past the keeper following Ronan Doherty’s corner delivery.

That goal sparked a Glentoran reaction and, after Jonny Frazer had miscued a volley over the top, Herron’s header brought that incredible flying save out of Brush, who was also quick off his line to thwart Stewart as well as dealing with last-gasp strike from Paul O’Neill.

Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, A Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, R Curran (Bagnall, 77 mins), Foster, Wilson, Maguire (R Donnelly, 81 mins), Rocks, Gorman.