Glentoran vow to thrive on title pressure but Warrenpoint boss fumes over red card 'madness'
Glentoran 2 Warrenpoint 1
Skipper Marcus Kane says Glentoran will thrive on the pressure of being top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
The east Belfast club nudged their way to the summit following a hard-fought win over gutsy Warrenpoint Town at The Oval on Saturday.
Not for the first time, Mick McDermott's boys were forced to rely on their powers of recovery after the visitors - who are rooted to the bottom of the table - silenced the home supporters by forging into the lead when Alan O'Sullivan slotted home with their first meaningful attack on 50 minutes.
But the controversial dismissal of Warrenpoint goalkeeper Mark Byrne 20 minutes from time altered the landscape of the game.
The young shot-stopper clattered into Jonny Frazer 25 yards from goal just after defender Emmet Bennett whipped the ball to safety, but referee Jamie Patterson had the red card out in a flash.
Within minutes, the Glens were level when Hrvoje Plum threaded a pass to Robbie McDaid, who drilled past substitute goalkeeper Berratt Turker.
In fact, the erratic Turker escaped a possible red card himself when he flattened McDaid in a similar incident that led to Byrne's sending off. This time the referee strangely pulled out a yellow card.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
But the ultimate punishment was issued by Plum, whose resulting 30-yard free-kick arrowed into the top corner, which not only took the Glens to the top of the table but also helped extend their unbeaten run to an impressive 14 games.
"We have a never-say-die attitude, we had to dig in to win the games," said Kane.
"The boss pointed out that 46 per cent of our goals have come in the last 30 minutes of games.
"It's a total contrast to last season when we were conceding a lot of goals in the last half-hour.
"It's nice to be in the position we are in, but there is a long way to go. It's not a case of feeling the pressure because we are top because you are under pressure every time you pull on the shirt.
"If you don't feel pressure, you're in the wrong game. People pay good money to see you perform.
"It's always been my priority to give it 110 per cent, simply as a payback for the supporters who turn up every week.
"We are in it (the title race), so we'll thrive on that pressure.
"You need to be nervous going into any game because you feed on the nerves. It makes you stronger as a player.
"It's great for this club to be up there challenging, it's new territory for some of the boys. We'll keep taking one game at a time to see where it takes us."
Town boss Barry Gray was adamant the game hinged in the dismissal of Byrne.
"The sending off was madness," he said. "Yes, it was a free kick, but a red card? Absolutely not. It was a natural coming together of two players.
"Had it happened anywhere else on the pitch it would never have been a red card.
"Having looked at it on television, I'm even more frustrated. At that point, we were well in the game, if not on top of it. We scored a good goal and had another couple of good chances after that.
"I don't think the referee hadn't a good day -there were a lot of inconsistent decisions."
GLENTORAN: Antolovic, Garrett, Kane, Peers, Gallagher (Crowe, 85 mins), McDaid, McClean, Pepper (Frazer, 54 mins), Nasseri (Herron, 79 mins), Plum, Van Overbeek. Unused subs: Morris, Gordon, Cowan, O'Connor.
WARRENPOINT: Byrne, Bennett, McVeigh, O'Sullivan, Doyle (Turker, 72 mins), Scannell, Wallace, Dillon (Hutchinson, 75 mins), Mullen, Deasy, Swan. Unused subs: Smith, Young, Lynch Watters, Cowan.
Referee: Jamie Robinson
Man of the match: Hrvoje Plum
Match rating: 6/10