Glens can humble the best, says Fra
Glentoran 2-0 Cliftonville
When the Glentoran team sheet was pinned on the board ahead of the Danske Premiership showdown with Cliftonville, Fra McCaffrey admitted he was a little bit miffed his name was only among the five substitutes.
But when manager Alan Kernaghan gave him the nod at half-time, he didn't disappoint. The midfielder responded by producing a sizzling performance, climaxed by an injury time killer goal that guaranteed his team three valuable points.
The result also inflicted a huge dent in the Reds' title hopes. They are now an intimidating eight points adrift of reigning champions Crusaders, which means the Boxing Day clash with their north Belfast rivals is now a must win game.
"I was forced off on Monday night against Portadown with a nose injury, I still don't know whether it's broken or not," said McCaffrey. "I thought I was left out for that reason.
"It's a squad game at the end of the day. But I got my chance when Marcus (Kane) had to come off with an injury at half time. Thankfully, I was able to make a contribution. The goal really killed them off.
"I just remember winning the ball on the half way line. Cliftonville were pushing forward, so I had a lot of space in front of me. I just kept going. The boys (Curtis Allen and Jonathan Smith) were queuing up in the middle wanting me to square it to them. No chance. I knew what I was going to do. Thankfully the ball hit the net.
"That was game over, there was no way back for Cliftonville after that."
McCaffrey is confident there is a lot more to come from this Glentoran team.
"That's what we are capable of on our day," he added. "We went into the game as underdogs, so we wanted to prove to people we are a decent team.
"We had something to prove after the result (5-3 defeat) on Monday night against Portadown. We gave away stupid goals - it was one of those games to forget.
"There is a lot of positivity about the club since Alan has come in. We are creating more chances, we are having more shots at goal and we are scoring more.
"Our aim is to stay in the top six. We just want to keep pushing on to see where it takes us. You can't afford to look at the teams around you in this league. We take one game at a time and try to pick up three points every week."
McCaffrey also saluted the contribution teenager Jonathan Smith, who shot the Glens into an early second half lead.
"Jonathan has really grown into the side," he added.
"He's still young, but learning all the time. The goals are starting to go in for him.
"Earlier in the season, the ball was hitting the post or going wide, but now it's hitting the net. He works well with Curtis and is certainly one for the future."
McCaffrey is hoping he did enough to stay in the team for the Boxing Day showdown against rivals Linfield.
He added: "I didn't play last Boxing Day, I was left out of the team. That hurt me a lot. After that goal I'm now buzzing."
Reds boss Gerard Lyttle insisted his boys deserved better.
"Glentoran had a game plan to frustrate us," he said. "They had one shot in the second half and they scored. We had no option but to go for it and they caught us on the break right at the finish.
"To be honest, I can't fault our effort and commitment. The only thing missing was goals.
"We didn't test Elliott Morris. We asked a few players to take a gamble and flood the six yard box, but it didn't happen.
"But we have to dust ourselves down and get ready to go again. We have a great group of boys in the dressing room and they'll be hurting after this result," he added.
Glentoran: Morris, Henderson (Hamill, 88 mins), Kane (McCaffrey, 46 mins), Holland, Magee, Addis, McAlorum (Caldwell, 70 mins), Smith, Allen, Gordon, McCullough. Unused subs: Hogg, Cafolla.
Cliftonville: Devlin, McGovern, Ives (McMurray, 80 mins), Flynn, Knowles Curran, McDaid (Murray, 80 mins), Garrett, M Donnelly (J Donnelly, 62 mins), Catney, Cosgrove. Unused subs: McMullan, Brennan.
Man of the match: Jay Magee
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)