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McDermott backs Glentoran to complete Euro mission

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Glentoran’s Jamie McDonagh scores their equaliser against TNS (Pacemaker)

Glentoran’s Jamie McDonagh scores their equaliser against TNS (Pacemaker)

Agony: Glentoran’s Robbie McDaid reacts to a missed chance. Credit: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Agony: Glentoran’s Robbie McDaid reacts to a missed chance. Credit: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

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Glentoran’s Jamie McDonagh scores their equaliser against TNS (Pacemaker)

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott is confident that his team have another gear in them and can finish the job after drawing at home to The New Saints in the first leg of their first qualifying round tie in the new Europa Conference League.

After Leo Smith netted a mesmerising goal early on for the visitors, second half substitute Jamie McDonagh grabbed a vital equaliser for the Glens with eight minutes left.

It was the least the Oval side deserved and, after a late flourish when they should have clinched victory, it is no wonder that McDermott fancies that his players can deliver the goods next week in the return.

“You saw our quality in the second half when we stayed calm and I feel we have another gear to go to,” said McDermott.

“If we perform like we can and play a bit quicker which we can, it’s a game we can go and win and we’re looking forward to it.”

Entering the pitch before the start of the tie, the Glens players were greeted by a mighty roar from 978 home supporters. There was anticipation and excitement in the east Belfast air.

Football might be coming home in England, but last night all that the Glentoran fans cared about was that football was back at the Oval.

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They would have been content with the early exchanges as Rhys Marshall dominated in the middle of the park, eager to create mayhem for the visitors. Robbie McDaid was making promising runs behind the TNS defence and gifted youngster Mal Smith was looking lively.

Looking on from the sidelines, McDermott would have been content. In the 13th minute, however, he would have been feeling displeasure and a touch of admiration when his side fell behind to a glorious goal from Smith.

The midfielder danced past four Glentoran players in a dazzling run into the box before calmly slotting the ball past Dayle Coleing. It was magical stuff from Smith, who has played for Wales at junior level, but for the home team to fail to lay a glove on him as he jinked his way forward was extremely poor.

That rocked the Glens who, shortly after, were thankful Patrick McClean was on hand to halt Declan McManus as he powered into the area.

Prior to the game, McDermott revealed that his squad had been hit by injury and Covid-19 isolation issues, leaving some key players absent for this Euro mission.

They needed those on the pitch to step up. When the Glens passed at speed, they looked a threat while Conor McMenamin was capable of beating the opposition defenders, though chances were few and far between until just before half-time when Gael Bigirimana’s deflected shot directed into McDaid’s path inside the area. The Glens fans held their breath ready to cheer an equaliser only to be stunned when the striker fired his right foot shot wide.

In the second period, the home side had plenty of possession but couldn’t make it count. TNS goalkeeper Paul Harrison saved comfortably from McMenamin and Marshall headed over while, at the other end, Coleing denied Adrian Cieslewicz.

It wasn’t until substitutes Andy Mitchell and McDonagh came on with 73 minutes on the clock that the Glens upped the ante. Both were kept out by Harrison before McDonagh was sharp enough on 82 to take advantage of an error from the goalkeeper to tap home after determined work from McDaid.

It could prove to be a massive goal.

The Glens finished with a flourish, piling the pressure on. McMenamin’s delightfully flighted corner found the head of Marshall in injury time only for his effort to sail inches wide.

They could have done with that hitting the net ahead of next week’s second leg but, on the evidence of their opening encounter of the season, the Oval side have enough to qualify for the next round come the second leg.

GLENTORAN: Coleing, Kane, McCullough, Bigirimana, Marshall, R Donnelly (Mitchell, 73 mins), McDaid, McClean, Smith (McDonagh, 73 mins), Marron, McMenamin. Unused subs: Morris, Glendinning, McCarthy, Cushnie, Wightman.

TNS: Harrison, Davies, Astles, Routledge, Ebbe, McManus (Robles, 80 mins), Cieslewicz (Cornish, 90 mins) Clark (Williams, 72 mins), Smith, Davies, Daykin. Unused subs: Roberts, Brobbell, Canavan, Rees,

Referee: Loukas Sotiriou (Cyprus)

Man of the match: Conor McMenamin

Match rating: 6/10


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