Glentoran 1-0 Cliftonville
Cliftonville suffered late pain against Glentoran at The Oval, where an 89th minute wonder-strike by Jamie McDonagh earned maximum Danske Bank Premiership points for the hosts.
Given the fixture’s recent history of last-gasp goals, allied to the fact there have been decisive efforts in the closing stages of every Reds match so far in 2021, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the issue was settled as the clock was ticking down.
There was still time for Aaron McCarey to save a penalty in the aftermath of Garry Breen being sent off, but there’s no doubt Cliftonville will reflect on their inability to capitalise on a strong spell of possession during the second-half – while an early penalty shout could have made a significant difference.
Glentoran had, however, carved out the first chance of the day after just three minutes when Rhys Marshall slipped Robbie McDaid through, only for McCarey to race off his line and block the shot.
The Reds should have been awarded a 13th minute spot-kick when Rory Hale’s delivery eventually fell to Barry Coffey inside the box and, when he was chopped down by Marcus Kane, referee Ian McNabb infuriated the visitors by waving play on.
Hale would drag an effort wide before a poor kick-out from McCarey led to Ruaidhri Donnelly teeing up McDaid, only for the striker to blaze over the top.
McDaid would go close again just before the break but his flicked header was superbly clawed out by McCarey, while the 57th minute introduction of Chris Curran from the bench instigated the Reds’ best period of the game.
After Paul O’Neill had seen an effort deflected behind for a corner, Hale almost broke the deadlock in fortuitous fashion when he read Paddy McClean’s intentions and blocked the defender’s attempted pass across the face of his own goal, only for the ball to ricochet kindly into the arms of goalkeeper Dayle Coleing.
Ronan Doherty then drew a straightforward save out of Coleing before smart work from Daniel Kearns saw him open up a sniff of an opportunity but, reluctant to take the chance on with his left foot, he opted instead to cut the ball back into the middle, where neither Hale nor Ryan Curran were able to get on the end of it.
Marshall saw two decent opportunities come and go before Glentoran claimed the points in outrageous fashion on 89 minutes when McDonagh let fly with a volley from distance that gave McCarey no chance as it sailed into the top corner.
Breen, booked for his protests over an incident in the build-up to the goal, then felled former team-mate Conor McMenamin inside the box to earn himself a second card and, though McCarey saved Chris Gallagher’s kick, the final whistle sounded instantly to bring the curtain down on some late disappointment for the Reds.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Breen, Harney (O’Connor, 90 mins), R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Hale, Lowe, O’Neill (Kearns, 70 mins), Coffey (C Curran, 57 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Casey, Teggart.