Jordan Stewart 33', Shayne Lavery (PEN) 66', Jimmy Callacher 90+5'
Coleing x2, J. Donnelly
Chris Johns (GK), Conor Pepper (Christy Manzinga 80’), Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher, Niall Quinn, Stephen Fallon (Matthew Shevlin 88’), Kyle McClean (Navid Nasseri 71’), Jamie Mulgrew (C), Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart, Shayne Lavery
Dayle Coleing (GK), Seanan Clucas ©, Luke McCullough, Caolan Marron, Patrick McClean, Robbie McDaid, Dale Gorman (Gael Bigirimana 83’), Chris Gallagher (Rory Brown (gk) 76’), Paul O’Neill, Jay Donnelly, Cameron Stewart (Ciaran O’Connor 45’)
Six goals, red cards, big tackles and talking points aplenty; tonight’s ‘Big Two’ derby was a classic as Linfield needed a last-gasp equaliser to salvage a point after a pulsating game of football.
For the first time since last Boxing Day, the ‘Big Two’ locked horns at Windsor Park this evening. Linfield came into the game as the league’s form team, with six wins from six this season and a run of 11 league wins a row which stretched back to last season. Meanwhile, Glentoran were having a stuttered start to the season and came into the game on two points. However, they’d only played four fixtures due to games being postponed due to international call-ups and covid-related issues and this was their first fixture for 17 days. This meant it was top versus bottom in terms of the league table, however, everyone knows the form book goes out the window on derby day and this was no exception.
Linfield were dealt a blow before the game as top goal scorer Andy Waterworth was ruled out due to injury which was picked up against Glenavon at the weekend. Waterworth was replaced by Shayne Lavery, and in Linfield’s other change, captain Jamie Mulgrew was fit again to start and he came in for Navid Nasseri who dropped to the bench.
Linfield dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead on 33 minutes. Jordan Stewart received the ball on the left side of the box and took a neat touch before showing nice footwork to beat a defender and he hammered a shot at goal from a very tight angle – almost impossible, really – but it somehow went in as the Glentoran goalkeeper couldn’t deal with the sheer force behind the shot.
The Blues had a penalty appeal waved away shortly beforehand when Shayne Lavery ventured into a similar area before seeing his cross blocked by what he and his teammates believed to be a Glentoran hand.
Lavery had also threatened early on when Conor Pepper did tremendously well to not only keep the ball in, but to also wrap his foot around it and get a cross in. Lavery turned on the burners to beat the goalkeeper to the ball but the angle was against him for a shot and so he put in a driven cross which was just beyond Kyle McClean. McClean had also went close following a slick Linfield move when he fired a well-struck shot just wide from 25 yards.
Glentoran’s only real meaningful attempt of the first half came in the 43rd minute when Paddy McClean met Dale Gorman’s driven corner but his header from distance was over the bar and Chris Johns watched it go over his goal with ease.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Glentoran
Linfield ‘keeper Chris Johns was then called into action for the first time on 48 minutes and will be disappointed not to have held Robbie McDaid’s shot from the left. The ‘keeper couldn’t gather and Paul O’Neill slotted in the rebound from close range to level for Glentoran. This was just the start of a quite remarkable second half.
Glentoran enjoyed a strong spell after the equaliser and almost went in front when a dangerous cross in by Seanan Clucas squirmed past Chris Johns and Conor Pepper made a crucial goal line block and fortunately, the ball dropped into Chris Johns’ path.
However, it was Linfield who would score next to retake the lead. Glentoran’s Gibraltar international goalkeeper Dayle Coleing failed to control a back pass from Seanan Clucas and Stephen Fallon nipped the ball off off him before the ‘keeper hacked him down in desperation. The referee had the easy decision of pointing to the spot but some argued that the ‘keeper should have seen red, rather than the yellow he received. Coleing went the right way for Shayne Lavery’s resultant penalty but the sheer power on the strike was enough to beat him and put Linfield back ahead.
Linfield’s lead lasted just two minutes. A pinpoint pass was arrowed by Dale Gorman over the shoulders of Jimmy Callacher and Mark Haughey for Jay Donnelly who controlled the ball on his chest before hooking the ball beyond Johns from close range. The striker was booked for antagonistic celebrations and taking his shirt off.
If Coleing was fortunate to stay on the pitch after his first foul, there was no hiding place after his second. It was another moment of madness as he beat Shayne Lavery to a loose ball before performing kicking fresh air and totally missing the ball before another reckless challenge which Shayne Lavery required treatment for. It was as if the ‘keeper missed the ball and karate kicked Lavery in one movement. Coleing received his marching orders and was replaced by substitute goalkeeper Rory Brown who joined the Glens from Institute in the summer as midfielder Chris Gallagher was sacrificed.
Linfield then pushed for a third. David Healy went to a back three as he sacrificed right back Conor Pepper for attacker Christy Manzinga. Jordan Stewart went close after a great turn in the box when his low strike was well beaten away by Brown in the Glentoran goal. Shayne Lavery also went agonisingly close when he met a low driven cross by Kirk Millar but the striker’s close range shot flew the wrong side of the post. Stewart also curled a shot just over the upright after more good play.
Against the run of play it was the ten men of Glentoran who looked like they’d won it in the 86th minute. Jay Donnelly brought down a loose ball and Linfield were stretched as Donnelly slotted the ball through to Robbie McDaid who went through on goal before slipping the ball low beyond Chris Johns. Frustratingly, Linfield had a good chance to break in the lead-up to the goal but Christy Manzinga’s pass through to Navid Nasseri was not of the quality required to break.
Again, Linfield rallied in search of a response. David Healy made his final sub as attacker Matthew Shevlin replaced midfielder Stephen Fallon. The Blues kept pumping the ball into the box and Jimmy Callacher almost levelled on 89 minutes when he lobbed the goalkeeper, only for Paddy McClean to clear off the line.
In the first of five additional stoppage time minutes, Glentoran were reduced to ten men. It was a needless and again reckless challenge, this time on his former teammate Navid Nasseri with a poor tackle in the middle of the pitch.
Linfield pumped a number of long balls into the Glentoran box in stoppage time but each time it was comfortable for the visiting goalkeeper. However, there was to be a final twist in the tale. Linfield mounted one last attack in a structured manner as Mark Haughey turned in the box, laid it back to Shayne Lavery on the edge of the box and he whipped in a delightful cross to the back post for Jimmy Callacher to rise and power home the equaliser to salvage a draw with the last kick of the game on 94 minutes 34 seconds.
In the end, Linfield will be disappointed not to have kicked on and taken the three points after Glentoran were reduced to ten men, especially in a game which they had dominated first half. Glentoran were clinical, taking their three chances but there will also be a sense of relief to salvage a point at the death when looking consigned to defeat. For that, David Healy will be pleased with the character of his team. It's the first points dropped of the season after seven games but Linfield lead second place Larne by two points and next up is a trip to Warrenpoint this Saturday which will be played behind closed doors, unlike tonight which saw limited fans at Windsor Park.
Full Time: Linfield 3 – 3 Glentoran