Glentoran 2 Portadown 1: Glentoran manager Scott Young last night spoke of his disgust after two of his coaches were struck by a firework last night.
Oval goalkeeping coach David McClelland and former player Pete Batey were injured when the firework landed between them in the home dugout during the 2-1 victory over Portadown.
Glentoran’s win catapults them into today’s IRN-BRU Cup quarter-final draw but the Irish League suffered another damaging blow to its image.
McClelland will attend hospital today after suffering a suspected perforated eardrum while Batey also experienced hearing difficulties after the attack midway through the first half.
A second firework was hurled from the Portadown section of the crowd after Colin Nixon equalised for Glentoran following the break and an announcement over the tannoy system from the PSNI warned that the game would be abandoned if another firework was thrown.
Fuming Glens boss Young said: “Do I really want to see one of my backroom staff lying on the ground? It’s not nice to see and I think David has a perforated ear drum.
“There has been some hostility between Glentoran and Portadown fans and it wasn’t so long ago that Gary Hamilton got attacked on the pitch.
“I just looked up and I wanted to know what the Portadown stewards were doing. But other people should look at that. I’m just delighted there was no-one seriously injured and we won the game.
“I remember when I first came to Glentoran they used to bring these bangers to Big Two games but it’s never nice and there were TV cameras here to witness it. It’s not a nice image to portray of Irish League football.
“But Glentoran are blameless here, we didn’t cause this.”
McClelland, who was sitting with the Glentoran substitutes, collapsed 22 minutes into the game after a loud bang was heard at the Sydenham bypass end of the ground.
Referee Raymond Crangle halted play for three minutes while paramedics rushed to treat McClelland and Batey who was sitting beside him.
The shocking incident, which happened despite the presence of stewards in the stand, evoked painful memories of the time Linfield’s Conor Hagan was struck by a firework in the County Antrim Shield final in 2008.
In these times of strict health and safety regulations, it beggars belief that fans, players, managers and coaches should have to dodge fireworks at a football match.
Glentoran officials made fierce protests after a second firework was hurled from the stand after Nixon’s equaliser, though no-one was injured this time.
For the genuine fans, this was a show worth watching, not disrupting, and it was Glentoran, thanks to a Portadown old boy, Gary Hamilton, who kept their cup dream alive.
Hamilton, the man Portadown fans love to hate, smashed in the sweet winner in the 66th minute.
The visitors, missing Kevin Braniff who is nursing a knee injury, survived a scare when keeper David Miskelly tipped Darren Boyce’s shot away to safety.
But Ronnie McFall’s side stormed in front on 33 minutes when Jamie Tomelty tricked the Glens defence with a clever cross and ace marksman Matthew Tipton fired the ball into the net from inside the six yard box.
Young sent on Richard Gibson and Jim O’Hanlon at the break and the latter missed a glorious chance to equalise when Ross Redman failed to clear the danger but the youngster fluffed his lines.
However, the Glens got back on level terms on 58 minutes when skipper Nixon’s powerful header from Hamilton’s free-kick flew past Miskelly. From provider to executioner, Hamilton then floored his old club with a stunning finish from 22 yards in the 66th minute.
In the end it was Hamilton’s class that shone through on an otherwise shameful night.
The former Northern Ireland international stamped his class on a game while others showed their lack of class on the terraces.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Nixon, Clarke (O’Hanlon 45), Martyn, Ward, Howland, Boyce (Gibson 45), Carson, Hamilton, Hill, Callacher. Subs (not used): Hoggs, Taylor, Cherry.
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Mackle, Redman, O’Hara, Ramsey, Breen, Tipton, Boyle (McCloskey 83), Mouncey, Tomelty, McCafferty (McCabe 79). Subs (not used): Murphy, Clarke, Brown.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).