Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville miss their chance

Glentoran 0 Cliftonville 0

By Graham Luney

What unfolded at The Oval on Saturday was a tale of missed handshakes and missed opportunities.

The biggest missed opportunity referred to the title race but Cliftonville can still have the last laugh.

Reds players held their heads in their hands at the end of this stalemate and no wonder.

This game should have been dead and buried at half-time but the champions left their shooting boots at home and their only crumb of comfort was the news that Linfield had forgotten theirs too.

With five games remaining, the Blues still hold a slender two points advantage and Cliftonville must now rediscover their killer touch in front of goal at Windsor Park on Saturday.

If this was a boxing match, Glentoran would have been spared further brutal punishment by the referee but, to the home side's credit, they showed their fighting qualities after the break.

But it was the sound of Reds players kicking themselves that reverberated around east Belfast at the finish.

"Both Linfield and ourselves missed a chance but we are running out of games and can't afford more slip-ups," warned Solitude supremo Tommy Breslin.

"Obviously we have to be more clinical and ruthless when chances come our way."

Glens chief Eddie Patterson gave his side the hairdryer treatment at half-time and he was relieved to pocket a point.

"We had young and inexperienced defenders trying to contain their two strikers," said Patterson.

"The team got an absolute rollicking at half-time and the boys responded. The game could have went either way after that but we were pathetic in the first half."

The Reds should have opened the scoring as early as the 10th minute but the normally lethal Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce queued up to miss wonderful chances and the Glens defence also had to scramble away a powerful header from Jaimie McGovern.

Then it was Glentoran's turn to be unlucky when Curtis Allen's cross struck the post.

Just two minutes after the restart, Boyce pounced on keeper Conor Devlin's long clearance but poked his shot wide of the target. Breslin admitted afterwards he knew then it was not going to be their day.

On 70 minutes, Glentoran centre-back William Garrett saw his name in lights when the ball fell to him in the penalty area but he scooped his shot well over the crossbar.

No winners here and, thankfully, no unsavoury incidents off the pitch.

There is bad blood between the sides after an alleged incident involving Reds keeper Devlin and Glentoran midfielder Jim O'Hanlon outside a Belfast nightclub and Fra McCaffrey was the only Glens player to shake Devlin's hand before the contest.

Patterson said: "As a manager I didn't want to know anything about it or give the players any instruction. I couldn't tell players to do something if they felt they didn't want to do it.

"There was liaison between the clubs during the week, hence Glentoran decided to do the walk and the handshake. It was much better the way the clubs decided to do it. It was discussed whether to drop the handshake but too many of the players are friends."

Breslin said: "We said to Conor that players may not want to shake your hand but just take the moral high ground and offer your hand. If people don't want to then that's up to them but we want to see fair play. People should not prejudge events if they don't witness things.

"If people don't shake hands that's up to them but we are only interested in football. I don't see the point of it happening before a game as you see it happening and then the players kick seven bells out of each other!

"You see it in the Champions League but we are merely part-time footballers.

"It's a childish point but nothing to do with me or Cliftonville."

There was more injury woe for the Glens with Jay Magee's season looking over after he sustained a bad ankle injury.

Magee will now put his feet up but for the Reds, the hard work is only just beginning.

GLENTORAN: Morris, Hill (Bradley, 67 mins), Addis, Magee (Birney, 28 mins), Garrett, McAlorum, Clarke (Henderson, 46 mins), O'Hanlon, Allen, McCaffrey, Stewart. Unused subs: McKee, Boyd.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Johnston (Winchester, 76 mins), McMullan (R Scannell, 56 mins), Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Curran (Garrett, 76 mins), Boyce. Unused subs: Caldwell, Murray.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge).

Belfast Telegraph


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