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Take It As Red!

Three days is a long time in football as Cliftonville pile on Oval agony

Rory Hale who scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute.

Glentoran ..... (0) ..... Cliftonville ..... (0)1

Cliftonville extended their unbeaten run to ten-in-a-row at the Oval last night. They’ve won each of the last seven!

Paddy McLaughlin’s contentedness to stay under the radar while everyone talks up the big two is about to be shattered... if it isn’t already.

They just about deserved last evening’s success, had the better game-plan and once in front rarely looked like relinquishing the lead.

Starting out with the excellent Ryan Curran up front supported by in-form Jamie McDonagh, for the most part kept in check by Bobby Burns on this occasion, the Reds were solid and organized. And when their first opportunity of the game arrived six minutes after the restart they gleefully accepted.

Returning from injury, Rory Hale rarely gets beyond the hour mark in games recently, but that was nine minutes too late for Glentoran. If the midfielder proved the executioner, springing offside to delicately finish past McCarey, then Curran was the conjurer. His delightful clipped ball catching Glentoran square, inviting Hale to do the rest.

Cliftonville players celebrate Rory Hale’s winning goal on 51 minutes.

For Glentoran, what a difference three days makes. As they trooped off the same Oval pitch at a quarter to five, Saturday, they were sitting pretty, joint top of the table on points and an Irish Cup semi-final to look forward to. Now they sit third in the table three points off the summit and staring Irish Cup expulsion in the face.

The manager’s twitter Sunday meltdown after the Irish Cup farce may have seeped through to his playing troupe. There was a feeling of cloudiness overhead arriving at the stadium last night and it probably did precious little to calm nerves going into a crucial game against a direct rival.

They did enjoy the better of a first half devoid of opportunities, but not by much. And after Hale had broken the deadlock the immediate response was decent although indecisive. Jay Donnelly headed a half chance wide and McMenamin also with an aerial opportunity failed to really test McNicholas.

The Cliftonville goalkeeper despite looking hesitant on occasions, had a relatively trouble-free work-out, his most concerning moment only three minutes in, when a Turner back-pass fell short allowing Clucas to almost profit.

The Glens huffed and puffed after conceding. Another chance fell to Jay Donnelly late on, but starved of the ball in front of goal throughout, the normally deadly striker snatched at his opportunity producing a lame effort which barely deserved the label ‘attempt’.

As so often this season the service to Donnelly wasn’t consistent. In too many games the striker has been isolated and you wonder just how many goals he might’ve scored had someone like O’Connor been twin spearheading alongside. Last night even with Cliftonville dropping deeper after the goal, O’Connor had to wait too long to see action.

The dependency on McMenamin and Donnelly to produce is stark. Glentoran have won only two league games this season when neither has scored. Their next highest league goalscorer is McDaid on 5 with a ratio of one every five games.

So often Glentoran’s ‘go-to’ man this season, Conor McMenamin was unable to help break down Cliftonville last evening.

Although he must have been delighted with his team’s performance and result, Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin is still keen to keep things low-key...

“I wouldn’t read too much into the post-match celebrations - it’s just that it’s such a tough place to come, coming to one of the top sides in the division and winning. We defended brilliantly and kept a clean sheet. If we get to the split and are still near the top I might concede we are in the title race.”

Not sure the former Institute coach is fooling anyone with this rhetoric any longer. There’s no doubt the Reds are right up there, in with a significant shout for the title. And let’s not forget, they’re already in the League Cup final and into the last four of the Irish Cup too.

The Derry-man has worked miracles. Cliftonville, relatively un-fancied in August, appear unfazed by the challenge of matching the full-timers and remain well in the hunt for major silver-ware.

Line-ups -
Glentoran: McCarey - Marshall, Marron, Cole (McCartan, 74), Burns - Murray (O’Connor, 74), Plum, Clucas - R Donnelly (McDaid, 70), J Donnelly, McMenamin.

Bench Unused: Garrett, Cushnie, Wightman, Glendinning.

Cliftonville: McNicholas - Lowe, Addis (Coates, 60), Turner, Ives - Doherty, Hale (Gormley 65), Gallagher, Kearns (Donnelly, 85) - R Curran, McDonagh (C Curran 85)

Bench Unused: McKenna, McDermott, O’Neill, Donnelly.

Referee: Tim Marshall.