Irish Premier League
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Shayne Lavery, Stephen Fallon
Glentoran Yellow Cards :
Rory Donnelly, Caolan Marron, Gael Bigirimana
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher (C), Mark Stafford, Niall Quinn, Jamie Mulgrew ©, Stephen Fallon, Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart (Andy Waterworth 74’), Joel Cooper (Navid Nasseri 69’), Shayne Lavery (Christy Manzinga 81’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore, Conor Pepper, Matthew Clarke, Cammy Palmer
Glentoran Team :
Rory Brown (GK), Caolan Marron, Luke McCullough, Patrick McClean, Marcus Kane © (Ciaran O’Connor 67’), Dale Gorman (Andrew Mitchell 85’), Gael Bigirimana, Rhys Marshall, Robbie McDaid, Jay Donnelly, Rory Donnelly
Belfast’s ‘Big Two’ Linfield and Glentoran played out an edgy goalless draw at The Oval this afternoon. It was probably a fair enough result, but just like against Larne a few weeks ago, Chris Johns came up trumps with a vital save as he kept out Robbie McDaid’s penalty late on to ensure The Blues left East Belfast with a point.
Linfield had a bright start in the opening exchanges, forcing two corners. From the first, Mark Stafford threatened with a downward header which was deflected just wide of the post. From the following corner Jimmy Callacher headed wide, although it was an awkward one. A short time later Stephen Fallon did well to squeeze in a low cross which was deflected and Jordan Stewart wasn’t far from getting onto it. Then the Glens threatened when Jay Donnelly latched onto the end of a loose Linfield defensive pass and he had a low shot from just inside the box saved by Chris Johns who got down low to push the ball away for a corner with his only real action of a first half which The Blues had the better of.
Joel Cooper produced some great wing play, firstly to keep the ball in when the odds looked stacked against him, and then to race forward before firing in a great cross which was crucially met by Glentoran defender Patrick McClean who had Shayne Lavery ready to let fire over his shoulder.
The Blues were disappointed not to take the lead after 20 minutes. It was more great play from Jamie Mulgrew who raced in behind the full-back to reach Jamie Mulgrew’s pass and the winger pulled it back for Shayne Lavery who fired a shot the wrong side of the post from close range.
In another close shave Jordan Stewart squeezed a cross in and retriever Kirk Millar made enough room for a shot which was blocked wide by Glens defender Luke McCullough on the face of goal, and Shayne Lavery was unlucky at the end of the first half when he got a low shot away from just outside the box and the goalkeeper got a hand to keep it out down low to his left to deny what would have been a deserved opener for Linfield. After the save Mark Stafford was ruled offside, probably for the first time ever.
Half Time: Glentoran 0 – 0 Linfield
The game remained cagey into the second half and The Blues’ first effort on goal of the half came ten minutes into it when Mark Stafford met Kirk Millar’s deep free-kick and the defender’s header was well judged by the goalkeeper who saved.
Glentoran weren’t too far from scoring when Dale Gorman whipped in a corner across the face of goal and with a ruckus of players from either team on Chris Johns’ goal-line the ball went through untouched.
On 69 minutes Joel Cooper had to be withdrawn after an impressive performance due to a knock which he couldn’t shake off.
The Glens had a rare chance to take the lead following a rare defensive mistake from Linfield which allowed striker Jay Donnelly through for a 2v1 with Robbie McDaid free to his right, but much to Linfield’s relief, Donnelly overhit his pass.
On 78 minutes the Glens were awarded a penalty kick on 78 minutes when the ball was worked to Gael Bigirimana for a shot following a corner and when he had a go the referee adjudged that there was a handball offence by Jimmy Callacher as he attempted to block the shot. Glentoran striker Robbie McDaid stepped up but he was foiled by Chris Johns who sprung down to his left to make the vital save.
Right at the death, drama. There was almost another big moment from Linfield’s talisman Andy Waterworth. The Blues broke through Kirk Millar whose cross was palmed by goalkeeper Rory Brown,, only as far as Waterworth who headed past the goalkeeper only for Rhys Marshall to get in to clear it off the line. Having earned the love of the Linfield support by scoring in big games, it nearly happened again, but he did all he could have done, and with four big league matches to go he will be determined that he bags one last iconic Linfield goal.
Coleraine’s win means they are up to second, six points off Linfield with four matchdays to go. Tuesday evening will be another telling day in the Danske Bank Premiership title race with Glentoran taking on Coleraine and Linfield faced with a tough challenge against Crusaders at Windsor Park.
Full Time: Glentoran 0 – 0 Linfield