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Paul Leeman tips Glentoran and Linfield to go clear in title chase as Jay Donnelly hailed for ‘unbelievable’ form


Jay Donnelly is four goals clear in the golden boot race. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jay Donnelly is four goals clear in the golden boot race. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jay Donnelly is four goals clear in the golden boot race. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

The Danske Bank Premiership title race will come down to the Big Two of Glentoran and Linfield.

That's according to Glens legend Paul Leeman, who was at Windsor Park to watch his old side come back to snatch a 1-1 draw with their rivals despite playing the final half an hour with 10 men on Monday.

The Blues had led thanks to Trai Hume's opener but were pegged back by the in-form Jay Donnelly despite Conor McMenamin's red card 12 minutes earlier.

The result means that Cliftonville could have gone top of the table, had their game against Crusaders got the nod and had they come out on top at Solitude.

That’s all ifs and buts, with the game postponed on Monday morning after a request from both clubs and the Reds now left two points behind the top two with a game in hand.

However, for Leeman it is the two full-time sides in the breakaway trio that will stay the course.

"You've got to give Cliftonville tremendous credit for the start they had to the season and they're still in there with a shout but I do think it will come down to the Big Two, Glentoran and Linfield," he told Radio Ulster. "Glentoran and reinforcing their squad and I expect Linfield to do the same. They are two top quality sides. Linfield impressed me today but I saw another side to Glentoran today. We know they like to get the ball down and play good football but they were solid and resolute. That's so important if you're going to win the league championship."

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Donnelly's leveller marked his 18th goal of the Premiership campaign, taking him four clear of Linfield's Christy Manzinga in the race for the golden boot.

"The form he is in in unbelievable," said Leeman. "It was a goal of real quality to get his team a priceless point at Windsor.

"He's been fantastic for Glentoran. Everybody knows the quality he possesses. He played a lot of his career in a wide area at Cliftonville but has come to Glentoran and become the number one striker. There's competition there from players like Robbie McDaid, his brother Rory but Jay has become the real focal point of the team.

"He has now added the goals to his game and is becoming a hero for these Glentoran fans.

"He ran himself into the ground today and his goal was one of real quality. That will feel like a victory for Glentoran given the circumstances."

The Glens have already moved in the transfer market by bringing in Sean Murray from Dundalk, Darren Cole from Derry City and former Linfield forward Michael O'Connor. Now Leeman expects the Blues to follow suit.

"I thought when Christy Manzinga went off, they lost their real threat at the top end of the pitch," he said of the champions, who lead the Glens in the table on goal difference. "A centre forward would be key for Linfield, I think they need a back-up in that area.

"Glentoran have gone out and addressed the spine of their team. I think that will stand them in good stead. They're level on points with Linfield with a key period coming up. They lost Caolan Marron today and Conor McMenamin could be out for a while so they're going to need those experienced players to come in and hit the ground running.

"I did think today's game would be close and could have ended up a draw. Linfield were the better team, there's no doubt about that, other than the opening 10 minutes. Glentoran could have taken the lead through Jay Donnelly but Linfield grew into the game, dominated possession and I thought they played very well.

"They deserved the lead and then the sending off was a massive moment. If anything, it made things more difficult for Linfield because Glentoran were backs against the wall. I always thought Glentoran could get a chance as Linfield weren't able to kill them off. The was always a bit of hope for Glentoran."

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