Glentoran and Coleraine share the spoils
Mick McDermott’s Glentoran last night bared their title teeth at the Oval – but it took a freak own goal from Coleraine’s Josh Carson to salvage a point for the East Belfast side.
It was first of a double-header between the sides – they must do it all over against at the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds on Friday night – but it was a result that did neither team any good as they attempt to close down Danske Bank Premiership pace setters Linfield.
Striker Matthew Shevlin hit a deadly double for the Bannsiders after Jay Donnelly had shot the Glens into an early lead.
But it was that bizarre own goal from Carson that deprived the visitors off all three points – he blasted the ball past his own goalkeeper Marty Gallagher from fully 35-yards.
It was Glentoran who asked all the early questions and were almost in front after only three minutes. Hrvoje Plum’s clever short corner routine found Gael Bigirimana, whose cross almost was almost converted by Paddy McClean at the back post.
Glentoran skipper Marcus Kane then joined his forwards to head a Plum free kick over the top before Jay Donnelly shot the home team in front on six minutes.
Luke McCullough’s wonderful 60-yard pass was headed on by Robbie McDaid. Donnelly took the ball down brilliantly before turning and smashing a low drive past Marty Gallagher from the edge of the box.
The Glens almost shot themselves in the foot two minutes later. Rory Brown’s botched clearance was charged down by Jamie Glackin but his weak shot was saved by the red-faced shot-stopper before the ball crossed the line.
But it was business as usual at the other end. On 19 minutes, Ruaidhri Donnelly’s great vision sent Rhys Marshall roaring into the box, but his well-drilled low drive was superbly saved by Gallagher.
From Plum’s resulting corner kick, McCullough’s vicious half-volley clipped the top of the crossbar, with Gallagher beaten.
Referee Raymond Crangle then waved away Glentoran claims for a spot kick when Plum buckled under a challenge from Aaron Jarvis.
The big Croatian midfielder then came within inches of doubling his team’s lead with a thundering 25-yard free kick after he had again been upended by Jarvis.
Incredibly, the Bannsiders were level on 28 minutes, but it’s a goal that will not have Brown rushing for replay button. Glackin floated in a free kick from the left that was completed missed by the big goalkeeper, and Shevlin flicked home with his head.
Suddenly, it was all Coleraine. Shevlin was deprived of a second goal by a great block by McClean just five minutes from the break before Glackin’s cross found Stephen Lowry at the back post, but his volley was somehow kept out by Brown.
Glackin should have had the visitors in from only 90 seconds after the interval. He was sent through the middle from a great pass by Ronan Wilson, but his rushed shot flashed over the crossbar.
But the Glens responded by producing a great move involving Marshall and Jay Donnelly, whose little flick allowed Seanan Clucas a yard of space inside the box, but his left-footed shot fizzed wide.
The pace slackened considerably in the second half, which was hardly surprising following what was an action-packed opening 45 minutes.
But Shevlin struck again with 20 minutes remaining. Glentoran defence switched off after Glackin and Clucas clashed in midfield, but Belfast referee Crangle waved play on.
When the ball reached Shevlin on the edge of the box, he held off a challenge from Marshall before smashing a low shot past Brown.
Glentoran were level with 13 minutes remaining – and what a freak goal it was.
Stephen Lowry carelessly lost possession and Carson charged into a tackle on Plum, but his 35-yard attempted clearance flew over the goalkeeper for the most bizarre of own goals.
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