Joe Gormley's ruthless touch gives Cliftonville a final chapter
Cliftonville 1 Glentoran 0
Joe Gormley’s 19th goal of the season last night earned high-flying Cliftonville a slot in the final of the Toals County Antrim Shield.
The 29-year-old displayed all his predatory instincts to end Glentoran’s trophy hopes under the Solitude floodlights.
Mick McDermott’s boys approached the game on a back of an impressive six-game unbeaten run, but they had their hearts broken once again by that man Gormley, who also bagged the winner in a League game at the Oval earlier in the season.
The in-form North Belfast side have tasted defeat on only once occasion in 10 outings -- and they will now face Ballymena United on January 21.
Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin was forced into a late change to his starting eleven after Ruaidhri Donnelly picked up an injury in the warm-up.
He was replaced by Conor McMenamin. It was the only alteration to the side that grabbed all three points in a tightly contest League game at home to Ballymena United at the weekend.
Glentoran boss Mick McDermott drafted in goalkeeper Elliott Morris – he features in cup competitions – in place of Marijan Antolovic, while Darren Murray and Paul O’Neill, Chris Gallagher and Elvio Van Overbeek.
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The Glens roared from the traps with Navid Nasseri drilling the ball across the face of the goal in the first minute, but there were no takers for a simple tap in.
O’Neill then tried his luck from the edge of the box, but his effort failed to test Richard Brush.
Cliftonville had to wait until the 13th minute for their first sniff at the other end. Ronan Doherty’s free kick was helped on by Jamie Harney but McMenamin’s header was bravely blocked by Patrick McClean.
But the home fans were celebrating on 18 minutes. The electric Gormley gobbled up a long punt through the middle and, having spotted Morris rush off his line, he cleverly lobbed the ball into the empty net.
It could have been two seconds later. Ryan Curran sent Gormley hurtling free, but his time his low drive was superbly pawed to safety by Morris.
The Reds were now running the show. Ryan Curran hoofed great chance into the side netting before giant defender Garry Breen met another Doherty corner kick. Even though Morris managed to shovel to safety, the ball appeared to cross the line before McClean completed the clearance.
McLaughlin’s boys should have been out of sight seven minutes before the interval. Conor McDermott’s long, raking free kick found the unmarked Harney, whose thumping header crashed off the crossbar with Morris totally helpless.
Glentoran attempted to repair the damage after the restart and missed a great chance to level on 54 minutes. Darren Murray managed to smuggle a pass to John Herron, who shamefully blasted high and wide from the edge of the box.
But the Reds produced a positive response with Chris Curran’s wonderfully timed pass sending Gormley free, but Morris was off his line to pinch the ball off the striker’s toe.
Within second seconds Murray was left holding his head in frustration at the other end after missing a sitter. John Herron’s flick presented the striker with an open goal, but he shamefully didn’t even get his shot on target.
Cliftonville had a great chance to kill off their opponents resistance, but substitute Thomas Maguire had a wicked effort pushed away by Morris, who repeated the feat from a vicious Doherty drive.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, McMenamin (Maguire 58), Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, A Donnelly.
Unused subs: Dunne, McKee, Foster, Wilson, Gorman, R Donnelly.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Kane, Peers, Herron, Murray (Stewart 62), McDaid, McClean, Pepper, Nasseri (Frazer 81), O’Neill (O’Neill 62), Plum.
Unused subs: Garrett, Gallagher, Crowe, Antolovic.
REFEREE: Evan Boyce.
Man of the match: Garry Breen.
Match rating 6/10.
Belfast Telegraph Digital