Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin's big warning
There's no margin for Derby day error if we are to retain crown, says Reds boss
Tommy Breslin admits the north Belfast derby on Boxing Day is now a game his Cliftonville side cannot afford to lose after they slipped to a second successive away defeat.
It is more than three years since the Reds have beaten Glentoran at The Oval and even if substitute Danny McKee had not struck a 92nd minute winner on Saturday, Breslin would still have been unimpressed by the champions' latest setback.
"If we have aspirations of defending our title, we have to come to places like this and Coleraine (scene of their previous defeat) and get results and this wasn't good enough," said Breslin.
"We've been in rich vein of form and another win would have rounded off a good week, but the Glens worked harder and, although we created more chances, I was never convinced we had enough in the tank to win it and that's the way it turned out.
"Now a (four-point) gap has opened up at the top of the table and the game against Crusaders is a game we cannot afford to lose."
For once, Joe 'The Goal' Gormley failed to find the target - after 17 in his previous 10 games - but the superb Glentoran defence deserves much of the credit for that.
A block by Willie Garrett and save from Elliott Morris denied him twice in as many minutes during the first half, although they could not could prevent his defence-splitting pass setting up strike partner Davy McDaid (left) for his 12th goal of the season after only 11 minutes.
But, in Breslin's words, Cliftonville "failed to move on" and Glentoran equalised when a shot from David Scullion (right) took a huge deflection and soared over Conor Devlin into the net.
The late goal, from a long clearance by Morris, which bounced over Tomas Cosgrove, was "no more than we deserved" according to Glens boss Eddie Patterson, who was delighted with his team's response after conceding the early goal.
"It was an unfortunate slip by Garrett which gave away the goal but we fought back and got a good goal," he said.
"Apart from a spell in the middle of the second half, we got into Cliftonville's faces and did that from the first whistle. And there's no better way to finish the game and it was a great finish by the young lad.
"But Cliftonville are a quality side and one of the reasons they are champions is because of the work rate they put in, not just in the big games but the so-called lesser games they are expected to win and that is what we are trying to emulate. And if we can maintain that work-rate on a constant basis then we are going in the right direction."
Remarkably, this was the first time that Glentoran had won three successive home league games since April 2010, but a quirk of the fixture list means they can't follow it up on Boxing Day against Linfield.
Instead, they must return to Windsor Park for the second time in six weeks with Cliftonville, who still lead the chasing pack but only on goal difference, hoping they can put in a similar display when they earned a draw.
"We put up a good second half performance last time and fully merited the last minute goal but the challenge is there for the lads to step up to the mark again," added a happy Patterson.