13 May 2023
© Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Glentoran secured their spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League this summer with a two-goal play-off defeat of Cliftonville at the BetMcLean Oval.

After a somewhat frantic start it took both sides some time to settle into the game.

Glentoran's first effort came through Conor McMenamin's volley from Terry Devlin's cross that Nathan Gartside did well to turn away while, for the Reds, Ronan Hale blazed over after connecting with a Chris Curran corner.

Indeed, chances were at a premium for large periods of the first half before the deadlock was broken ten minutes from the break.

McMenamin proved to be a threat as he cut inside Jonny Addis but was impeded by the Cliftonville defender in the area, with Junior Uzokwe stepping up to confidently knock home a 'Panenka'-esque spot-kick past Gartside.

Then, five minutes after that, Junior doubled his tally and Glentoran's lead when he pounced on the loose ball to fire high into the net after Devlin's effort from Rhys Marshall's cross was kept out.

Glentoran looked to extend their advantage early in the second half when Luke McCullough attempted to head home a Niall McGinn free-kick only to fail to find the target.

But the game was effectively over as a contest with 20 minutes remaining.

The Reds tried to put fresh impetus into their challenge with a double substitution, bringing Donal Rocks and Aaron Traynor on for Ronan Doherty and Levi Ives.

However, within two minutes of that, they were reduced to ten men when Rocks was dismissed by referee Ian McNabb for a late challenge on Devlin.

Glentoran: McCarey, Kane, McCullough, Burns, Marshall, Singleton, Devlin, McMenamin, Wightman, McGinn, Uzokwe subs Webber, McCartan, J. Donnelly, R. Donnelly, Smith, Crowe, Plum

Cliftonville: Gartside, Ives, Addis, Gallagher, C. Curran, R. Curran, Lowe, R. Doherty, Gormley, Turner, Ronan Hale subs G. Doherty, Parkhouse, McDonagh, Traynor, Rocks, Coates, Moore