Keith Gillespie struck his first ever goal in local football but it wasn’t enough to prevent Glentoran being held by lowly Institute on a night the lights went out at the Oval.
The Glens have yet to win at the Oval this season and if they are to regain the Gibson Cup that is a statistic they better change – quickly.
Kevin Ramsey put the visitors in front with a well taken goal and although the Glens had most of the play, they didn’t have that many chances with strikers Gary Hamilton, Andy Waterworth and Michael Halliday, when he came off the bench, all disappointing.
Indeed that Gillespie goal was the only bright spark on a night which saw the floodlights go out midway through the first half.
Glentoran, as expected made the stronger start but it wasn’t a case of firing the ball forward to the front men in the hope of breaking the deadlock.
The Glens were keeping hold of the ball well — intricately passing it around the park and waiting for the opportunity to pick out that killer ball to prise open the Stute defence.
As an analyst on Sky’s coverage of the Cliftonville v Linfield game on Monday night, Gillespie spoke of the fact that he thought teams here didn’t keep possession long enough — and his team mates were obviously watching.
But while that may look pretty, Stute would go on to show that the direct approach more than has its place in the game.
Declan Divin shot down the left flank and fired in a cross for Ramsey who held the ball up before turning and rifling home a great shot into the far corner to give the visitors a shock 13th minute lead.
Now the pattern of the game would have to change and with the Glens chasing, the short passes and triangles around the pristine Oval surface would have to be sacrificed for the time being while the champions went in search of an equaliser.
However, 15 minutes later the search was on for an electrician as the east Belfast ground was plunged into darkness — the new floodlights, which were only installed last month, seemingly suffering from a few teething problems and after a 17 minute delay the teams reappeared.
Austin Friel came on for Ramsey and within a few minutes of the re-start an embarrassing moment for Glens keeper Taylor almost saw Stute go two up.
Sean Ward’s backpass was completely miscued by the stopper — Artur Boruc style — but luckily for him the ball spun up and over for a corner.
Kyle Neill was replaced by Michael Halliday as Alan McDonald went for broke with three strikers but a goal didn’t really look like coming despite the pressure.
But at times like this you need the big names to stand up and with 20 minutes remaining Gillespie did just that.
In fairness to the former Northern Ireland international he didn’t stop running all night but it was his emergence in the box that brought about the equaliser as he got on the end of a Johnny Black cross to volley home from eight yards. The Glens pressed for a winner but it wasn’t to be on a very disappointing night for the champions.
GLENTORAN: James Taylor, Nixon, Ward, Johnny Taylor, Black, Gillespie, Ward, Clarke, Neill (Halliday 57), Hamilton, Waterworth (Fordyce 77). Subs: Morris, Leeman, Fitzgerald.
INSTITUTE: Cullen, Wray, McLaughlin, Ogilby, Holmes, Friars (Ryan 87), McClean (Blackburn 55), Boyle, Divin, Ramsey (Friel 46), Brown. Subs: McFadden, McMenamin.
Referee: Mark Courtney (Dungannon).