Glentoran 0 Portadown 1
Glentoran boss Scott Young has hit out at the standard of the Carling Premiership having watched his side lose yet again this season.
No one expected the Glens to win the League this term with financial problems leading to something of a cull and Young forced to work with a very young squad. Very few would have even put them in the title race at this stage in the campaign.
However that's exactly where they are, two points behind leaders Linfield and all this despite the fact that Saturday's 1-0 defeat to ninth placed Portadown was their sixth reversal of the campaign.
Traditionally, the Big Two set the standard in the League but neither of them have been particularly dominant so far this year and the gap has been closed by the rest of the division.
Some might see that as a good thing as it makes for a more competitive League, however it also brings about the suggestion that both Glentoran and Linfield have been dragged down to the level of the others.
Young's comments may have come across as sour grapes, brought about in the wake of a disappointing display by his team who were unable to beat what has generally this term been a poor Portadown side by their standards — and this after the visitors went down to ten men, losing the influential Kevin Braniff in the first half.
Richard Lecky scored the winner in the 81st minute for the Ports and Young commented afterwards: “We've lost six games in the league and Linfield's lost four and Cliftonville's lost however many and Crusaders have lost however many (both have lost seven), that's because the standard of the League's not good enough.”
He added: “If it was a good League at all then that wouldn't be the situation.
“That's not me being detrimental to any other football club — I couldn't give a monkey’s about any other football club, I am only interested in Glentoran.
“But Glentoran have lost six games and we are two points off the leaders. You show me another League like that. People can says it's a tight League and teams are evenly matched but...”
The Glens boss — who had Johnny Taylor sent off late on — can at least point to his own experiences as a player.
When he wore the Glentoran shirt with distinction in the late 90s, he was involved in a team that were as exciting to watch as any Oval side for over a decade.
He also came up against very strong teams, notably Linfield, of course, and Portadown, Glenavon, Cliftonville and Coleraine.
And while, in the past couple of years, Crusaders and Cliftonville have risen to the challenge, they have never been quite good enough to sustain it.
Those who don't follow either the Glens or the Blues will dismiss the comments as just another moan emanating from the capital with those outside of the Big Two goldfish bowl often complaining that Glentoran and Linfield feel they have a divine right to win games because of their stature.
But Young definitely has a point, not least if you look at Saturday's line-ups.
Taking his own era as an example, how many of the 26 players who turned out at the Oval on Saturday would get into either side in the late 90s?
Colin Nixon for the Glens and he was in it already, while for the Ports, Kevin Braniff, as good as he is, would maybe have to settle for a place on the bench.
Even across the city, the question stands. Peter Thompson, Jamie Mulgrew, Alan Blayney and, when on form, Michael Gault — arguably no one else at Linfield would get anywhere near their teams of the 90s, even the disappointing ones.
Portadown manager Ronnie McFall, in a way, backed up Young's comments, saying: “I don't think there is a lot of difference in the quality right throughout the League.
“We played Glentoran at our place and again they scored in injury time and we should have won that match.
“We have dropped silly points where we should have got maximum points from it and probably every team can say the same thing.
“I think there is certainly a levelling out.”
Of course, this doesn't take away any of the excitement from the League.
The standard has obviously never been world class but, in terms of drama and players showing determination, the football's well worth watching.
Portadown offered more commitment on Saturday and were rewarded with a crucial three points.
But Young was incensed at his team and, not for the first time, questioned their mental toughness, having missed out on the opportunity to go top with Linfield losing to bottom of the table Donegal Celtic the previous day.
“There was a great Glentoran crowd here and they let the crowd down — they let the Glenmen down because the Glenmen came here hoping — no, expecting — to go top of the League so we failed a test of character in the second half and there is another test of character on Tuesday.
“If players don't want to show a set of b***s on Tuesday night [versus Coleraine] they'll be found out and there will be a lot of thinking done of the next few days.”
He then added: “At the same time we are two points behind Linfield, we won the first trophy of the season, we are in the semi final of the League Cup and this was devastating because we knew we could have gone top of the League and it's hard to take at this moment in time but we have to remain grounded.”