Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Glentoran 2 Cliftonville 1

Glentoran boss Alan McDonald

The Oval wasn't exactly a 'boo-free zone' on Saturday but the home supporters at least acknowledged the determination of their players after a dramatic fightback saw them come from behind to beat Cliftonville 2-1... and with a man down, too.

Glenmen have been voicing their frustrations in recent weeks following some, admittedly, very poor performances but despite Saturday's victory which was played in a gale, there were still a few pantomime jeers for the manager as he walked off.

It's very unfair on Alan McDonald. It wasn't a vintage display to say the least but again the conditions put paid to any hope of Brazil '78-style football being played and you have to give the team a huge amount of credit for coming back to win after Elliott Morris had been sent off just after the break for handling outside his box.

The wind — which played its part in Cliftonville's goal — and the actions of Morris are out of the boss' control and one wonders what more McDonald can do to appease the supporters.

There were calls for Andy Waterworth to start after scoring against Linfield last week. He did, but it didn't work and McDonald sent Michael Halliday on and the striker equalised and had a hand in the winner.

Youngster Jimmy Callacher rightly held on to his place after two decent displays against Portadown and Linfield, but the game changed when he was replaced by Shane McCabe with 20 minutes to go.

However, you can bet your life there would have been an outcry if McCabe had lined out at the kick off.

For all that though, the Glens players were finally smiling after a tough month and Dean Fitzgerald, the man who scored the 84th minute winner said the atmosphere in the camp had changed dramatically in the days leading up to this game.

“It didn't really go according to plan, we wanted to come out of the blocks in the first 15 or 20 minutes and really hit them with the wind (at their back) and again our character has been tested and we go a goal down,” said Fitzgerald.

“We were 1-0 down at half time and coming out fighting a gale. Then Elliott gets sent off and it really tested the character.

“We've been working a lot with a sports psychologist, he helped us through the run in last season, talking about getting your head right and being confident and how the heads have been dropped in different performances and so at half time we said, 'right, boys, this is the time to stand up.'

“Then within five minutes Elliott got sent off. But I think that proved that we have character, we have a will to win that we didn't let our heads drop.

“We kept going and kept going and got a goal back and then thankfully got a winner.

“We feel for the fans and hopefully they feel for us too.

“There is immense pressure coming from all areas. We had a bit of a chat about it on Thursday and we were very confident coming out — I won't say what was said but we had a real heart-to-heart.

“We came out, tried really hard, were confident coming into the game, we went a goal down, had a man sent off and yet we came back out and we won the three points. It's a great victory and it's a great morale-booster for the club as well.”

Fitzgerald, who headed home after Halliday had flicked on Gary Hamilton's cross from the right, added: “The meetings during the week and the hard training was exactly what we needed. We know internally what we need to do and I've felt we have turned a corner.

“But you can't turn a corner until you have your first good victory after indifferent performances so we've got the performance and then we got the victory which was great.

“It's the first time we have been clapped off the park in a long, long time.

“Going out we had a bit of banter in the dressing room that hasn't been there for a while because the heads have been down and we haven't been confident enough to have the banter and have the belief of a victory.

“It brings immense pressure of your shoulders. It's great to come in and have the craic that comes with a good win.”

For Cliftonville, though, boss Eddie Patterson was seeing red at his side's inability to close a game out having gone a goal up through Mark Clarke and then having the advantage of being a man up when Morris, well outside his box, tipped away Liam Boyce's attempt at lobbing him.

“We were 1-0 up, playing some decent stuff then in the second half, with a goal up against 10 men, to lose the game 2-1 and stop playing the style of play that we had been in the first half — we started playing the long ball — is totally scandalous,” rapped Patterson.

“It's unacceptable, totally unacceptable. But it's happened. We have now dropped a couple of places in the league and there was an opportunity to move up a place. But we'll regroup for Tuesday night.”