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How Glentoran ended Linfield's season and kept their own Euro hopes alive with stunning comeback

Linfield 3-4 Glentoran

By Alex Mills

Glentoran still have the chance of ending a horrible season with a pot of gold!

The east Belfast boys booked their place in Saturday's Europa League play-off by coming back from the dead to defeat Big Two rivals Linfield in a pulsating shoot-out at Windsor Park last night.

Pop idol Ed Sheeran may have been strutting his stuff on the nearby Boucher Road, but it was the jubilant Glentoran fans who were in full voice as their team now go head-to-head with Cliftonville at Solitude with a cool €240,000 up for grabs.

It looked so good for David Healy's boys as they roared into a two-goal lead courtesy of goals from Kurtis Byrne and Andy Waterworth.

But a fantastic second half revival earned the Glens a chance of reaching European football for the first time in three years.

Dylan Davidson began the fightback, scoring from the penalty spot, before John McGuigan, William Garrett and Curtis Allen sent the far end of the ground into raptures.

Although Stephen Fallon replied for the Blues in the last minutes, it was too little to late. The defeat brought the curtain down on a season to forget for Healy's flops.

Ironically, the Glens had Allen in their line up only after the striker was given the all-clear to play just four hours before kick-off by the IFA Appeals Committee, having had a red card rescinded - he was dismissed against Dungannon Swifts last month.

David Healy's Linfield were grossly under-strength, with Mark Stafford, Robbie Garrett and Andrew Mitchell all suspended while rookie goalkeeper Alex Moore was drafted in to replace the injured Roy Carroll.

With so much at stake, it was hardly surprising both teams displayed a lot of early nerves.

Joe Crowe had his pocket picked by Robbie McDaid after three minutes. He sent McGuigan scampering through the middle, but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Fallon.

Linfield should have been in front on 21 minutes. Stephen Lowry's piercing pass found Waterworth, who got in between centre-backs Callum Birney and Johnny Addis.

But goalkeeper Elliott Morris got down brilliantly to paw away the striker's low drive.

If Waterworth was left red faced by that miss, Glens skipper Marcus Kane will have nightmares for fluffing a wonderful chance on 24 minutes.

Addis' monster long throw fell perfectly for the midfielder just six yards out, but he managed to screw his shot across the face of the goal when it looked easier to score.

The home fans were celebrating two minutes later with the delicious strike from Byrne.

He brilliantly pulled down a cross from Kirk Millar and, after a quick swivel, he shot low and hard into the bottom corner.

In fact, the home team missed a glorious chance of grabbing a second goal on 33 minutes when Jimmy Callacher's hopeful lob into the box found the unmarked Mark Haughey, but his low shot was easily gobbled up by Morris.

It was Glens who asked all the questions after the restart with McDaid weaving his way into the box before unleashing a stinging left-footed drive that Moore did brilliantly to flip over the top.

But the Blues put themselves within sight of Saturday's final on 51 minutes.

Matty Clarke's cross fell for the galloping Lowry, whose low drive was brilliantly beaten out by a strong hand from Morris, but master goal predator Waterworth pounced to scoop home.

Glentoran were handed a lifeline on 63 minutes when Callacher needlessly pulled back Allen inside the box, even though there appeared no danger, and referee Ian McNabb had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick.

Substitute Dylan Davidson, who had replaced the ineffective Peter McMahon 10 minutes earlier, sent Moore the wrong way from the spot.

Linfield were rocked back on their heels and McDaid was only inches away from levelling seconds later when he poked a Willie Garrett flick just wide.

But the away fans were in full voice on 66 minutes after McGuigan's wonder strike. He picked up a Kane pass on the edge of the box before curling a stunning drive around the outstretched glove of Moore.

And, it got even better for the now rampant Glens as Garrett headed them in front 11 minutes from time. Kirk Millar chopped down McDaid out on the left touchline and, when Redman flashed in a free kick, the defender got up above everyone else to send a header past Moore.

Glentoran were out of sight on 84 minutes with Allen's second of the night. McDaid robbed Haughey at the right corner flag, Linfield players appealed for a free kick, which didn't come and when he pulled the ball back for Allen, he buried his shot into roof of the net.

The Blues went looking to repair the damage with Fallon drilling home from the edge of the box in the last minute, but by that time, Linfield's fate had been sealed.

In their final home game of the season, they were booed off by their frustrated fans. They didn't deserve anything more.

LINFIELD: Moore, Crowe, Haughey, Callacher, Clarke (Campion 81), Millar, Lowry (Rooney 89) Fallon, Quinn, Waterworth, Byrne. Unused subs: Casement, Carroll, McGuinness.

GLENTORAN: Morris, Garrett, Birney (Kerr 40), Addis, Redman, Gordon, Kane McGuigan (Ferrin 90), McMahon (Davidson 53), McDaid, Allen. Unused subs: O'Hanlon, Kelly.

Man of the match: John McGuigan

Referee: Ian McNabb (Coleraine).

Match rating: 9/10.

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