Shield of dreams for red-hot Cliftonville
Glentoran 1 Cliftonville 2: Cliftonville last night clocked up a club record 12th successive victory by beating Glentoran 2-1 at the Oval — and with that win came the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield.
The rampant Reds last night clocked up a club record 12th successive victory by beating Glentoran 2-1 at the Oval — and with that win came the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield.
Manager Tommy Breslin saw his team dominate for the entire 90 minutes as he collected his first trophy as boss.
Martin Donnelly's first-half penalty and substitute Joe Gormley's late second were scant reward for the chances created.
Glentoran threatened to spoil the party in injury time, however, as Johnny Taylor pulled one goal back and Darren Boyce fired another shot wide from close range.
It could — and really should — have been a lot more for the Reds as they clicked into gear right from the start.
The opening stages were all Cliftonville. They created chances almost at will as they attacked with pace and verve.
The Glens were lucky to escape just five minutes in as Rory Donnelly didn't quite read Barry Johnston's back-heel after the Glens defence failed to clear and all he managed to produce was an air-shot as the ball ran harmlessly to goalkeeper Elliott Morris.
Cliftonville looked hugely impressive when they broke with such speed and a fine flowing move from left to right three minutes later saw Chris Scannell bring Stephen Garrett into the game on the right wing, he cut inside and hit a well struck shot, but it was straight at Morris.
Rory Donnelly has been the brightest of Cliftonville's stars during their record breaking run and that has brought attention from a large number of cross-channel scouts.
At last count it was 24 and last night he was watched by both Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers and Brentford boss Uwe Rosler.
The 19-year-old got his chance to shine 12 minutes in when Scannell found his young striking partner on the edge of the box, Donnelly chipped the ball over Sean Ward and Colin Nixon and was only denied by Ross Davison's block on the line.
Cliftonville were in complete control as Glentoran offered little in the opposing half.
Martin Donnelly curled a left foot shot wide on 18 minutes before Garrett got himself into an identical position as before only to produce the same shot — powerful, but again straight at Morris.
Rory Donnelly then showed his pace by beating Nixon to a through ball, but he shot too early and made it easy for Morris.
It took 34 minutes for Glentoran to carve out a meaningful chance.
Stephen Carson got to run at the Cliftonville defence for the first time and crossed for Ciaran Martyn who only managed to head over from close range.
Finally the goal that Cliftonville had threatened throughout the first-half arrived two minutes before the break, with Garrett heavily involved again.
This time he teased the Glentoran defence before playing a short pass to Martin Donnelly and as he tried to beat Martyn the Glens midfielder sent him crashing to the ground.
Colin Burns made the easy decision to award a penalty, which Donnelly dispatched with calm assurance.
The second-half was another tale of Cliftonville dominance. Rory Donnelly appeared to have been fouled in the box on 48 minutes, but despite the offence looking worse than the penalty that was given, referee Burns waved play-on.
Donnelly then shot over when well placed after being sent through by Scannell and he shot wide after Martin Donnelly found him with a pass.
Gormley had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes when he got the goal that seemed to assure Cliftonville of the victory with three minutes to go.
He was sent clear down the right and cut inside before firing a shot into the far bottom corner.
Only then did the Glens rally. They forced a free-kick deep in Cliftonville territory on the left and when Reds goalkeeper John Connolly pushed the ball out, Taylor was there to force it home.
Boyce brought gasps from the crowd when he blazed wide, but even forcing extra-time would have been more than a poor Glentoran effort deserved.