In Pictures: Cliftonville 1 Glentoran 2
Published 24/08/2009 | 03:43
An inch-perfect header from Colin Nixon proved decisive as Glentoran overcame the challenge of Cliftonville at Solitude on Saturday and maintained the champions' fine start to the new campaign.
A Kyle Neill penalty broke the deadlock but, after substitute Ciaran Caldwell had levelled for Cliftonville, the Reds looked the more likely to go on and claim full points only for Nixon to take the wind out of home sails just four minutes later.
For Glens boss Alan McDonald, the victory gives his side a real platform to build on in their defence of the Gibson Cup.
“This win means we've had a good start,” he said.
“Beforehand we had seven points from three games and, though that's not too bad, 10 from four reads a lot better and means we've come through a very tough opening few weeks with a decent tally of points on the board.”
An opening day 4-0 win at Lisburn Distillery was followed up with last-gasp drama in a victory over Portadown before last Tuesday night's draw with bitter rivals Linfield.
By no means an easy start to the season, the Glens nevertheless find themselves in second place, two points behind surprise pacesetters Dungannon Swifts.
“You always get a real battle at Solitude because Cliftonville work so hard and have proven themselves to be real contenders over the last few years,” added McDonald.
“We knew what to expect when we came here — a real fighting display from a team who you can't allow to get the ball down and play football.
“We gave away a sloppy equaliser in the second-half when we found ourselves up against it, but the boys showed very good character to bounce back so soon and have done very well to come away with the win so I'd have to say I'm very pleased.”
Neill opened the scoring on 27 minutes after Daryl Fordyce had been felled in the area, though the home side argued that Liam Fleming had been impeded by Glens striker Gary Hamilton in the build-up to the ball breaking in Fordyce's direction.
They then claimed a penalty of their own early in the second-half when O'Hara's goalbound header was kept out by Nixon's hands, but again referee Trevor Moutray saw nothing doing.
Cliftonville deserved an equaliser and the introduction of substitute Ciaran Caldwell proved an inspired decision by boss Eddie Patterson, the Reds' new-boy firing home just 60 seconds later after clever link-up play with Chris Scannell.
The Glens reacted in the best way possible, though, and promptly regained their advantage when Nixon headed past John Connolly from the most unlikely of angles after Jason Hill's cross.
“We should have got something from the game,” said boss Patterson afterwards.
“We switched off for the last 20 minutes or so of the first-half and stopped playing our normal game.
“After starting well, we were suddenly short of movement and the man in possession didn't have the same options.
“That meant that we were forced to go long and that was really just playing into Glentoran's hands.
“We spoke about it at half-time and I got the response I wanted.
“We deserved our equaliser and should have got something from the game in the end.”