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Europa League: Battling Glentoran go down with a fight

Glentoran players left the Oval last night with their pay in their pockets and some reclaimed pride after a 2-2 Europa League draw with KR Reykjavik.

Trailing 3-0 from the first leg and having gone into the game under something of a cloud after revelations that the club had been late in paying the staff, it looked as though this was going to be a dark night for the Glens.

However, the board gave the players their wages after last night's game with one source close to the club describing the reports as ‘a storm in a teacup'.

It transpired that although the players hadn't been paid for five weeks, with salaries paid monthly, this amounted to them having been distributed less than a week late.

And on the pitch, things were slightly better too, as a much improved performance at least saw them leave European football for another year without the usual battering.

However it has to be said that KR Reykjavik are no continental powerhouse and it begs the question as to how the Glens managed to go into this one on the end of a battering.

It was clear that Coyle had sent the team out with clear orders to rattle KR and their cause was helped by some complacency in the visitors backline as they, perhaps unsurprisingly gave off the aura of a team who felt their work was done a week ago.

Gary Hamilton and Jimmy Callacher both had decent chances before the breakthrough came that allowed Glenmen to dream.

After racing down the left flank, new signing Neal Gawley fired in a superb cross and young midfielder Callacher (pictured) was there to head in at the back post.

Their cause should have been helped further on the half hour. Sean Ward went in strongly on Bjorgolfur Takefusa who appeared then to stamp on the Glens defender, but Cypriot referee Marios Panayl, who hadn't seen the incident himself, didn't even consult his assistant and chose not to punish the KR striker.

And the referee was in the firing line again just before the break as Glentoran hopes were crushed by a soft goal. Play seemed to go on after what looked like a fair tackle by Jamie McGovern — that was until the official took into account the melodramatic reaction of the KR forward.

From the free-kick, Baldur Sigurdsson touched the ball on to Takefusa whose weak shot deceived the Glens defence and the ball deflected off Kjartan Finnbogason and into the goal.

Despite the fact the tie was all but over, the action didn't let up in the second half as nine minutes in, KR took the lead.

That man Takefusa forced a good save from Elliott Morris but as the ball bounced up it ricocheted off Johnny Black and heartbreakingly into the goal.

But the Glens held their heads high and within seconds were level from the penalty spot.

Waterworth burst into the box and appeared to lose control of the ball, though luckily for him Jom Fridgeirsson saw enough danger to warrant a rash challenge and brought the Glens striker down.

Hamilton stepped up and coolly dinked in the equaliser.

There were some half chances but a winner on the night never materialised and with that, the east Belfast men bowed out with some semblance of respect.

However against a team who at best could be described as a decent Irish League side, they have to wonder what might have been had they not failed so miserably in the first leg.

GLENTORAN: Morris, McGovern, Nixon, Ward, Black, Callacher (Fordyce 75), Clarke, Gardiner (Martyn 55), Gawley, Hamilton, Waterworth. Subs not used: James Taylor, Johnny Taylor, McCabe, Southam.

KR REYKJAVIK: Moldsked, G Sigurdarson, Gudjonsson, Finnbogason, Fridgeirsson, B Sigurdsson, Hauksson, Takefusa (Diogo 66), Arnarsson (Einarsson 56), Rutgers, Gudmundur (Jonsson 80). Subs not used: Ingason, Kristjansson, Baldvinsson.

Referee: Marios Panayl (Cyprus)

Belfast Telegraph