Mick McDermott highlights 10-man Glentoran ‘heart’ after derby draw at Linfield

Glentoran boss Mick McDermott hailed the character of his team following a gripping ‘Big Two’ derby clash with Linfield at Windsor Park.

It was a game that had everything - a sell-out festive crowd, goals, bookings, a sending-off and bags of controversy.

The result did neither side any favours, but it still keeps them shoulder-to-shoulder at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.

David Healy’s Blues got off to the best possible start with Trai Hume blasting them into an early lead, but Glentoran came battling back to level through Jay Donnelly – it was his 20th goal of the season – after they had lost Conor McMenamin, who was dramatically dismissed by referee Andrew Davy after a challenge on Jimmy Callacher.

Jay Donnelly heads home an equaliser for 10-man Glentoran at Windsor Park as the 'Big Two' top-of-the-table derby date with Linfield finished honours even in a 1-1 draw. Pic by Pacemaker.

“We started off really well, but then Linfield took control of the game, the system they played made it difficult for us,” said McDermott. “They had pressure on us from set-pieces and we were not happy with the goal we conceded.

“We changed our shape in the second half and it helped us.

“The red card obviously changed things...a massive amount of credit must go to the players.

“To score with 10 men against the league champions at the National Stadium with that crowd behind them, driving them on...it takes a lot of heart, desire and commitment.”

On the red card incident, McDermott went on: “I’ll have to see it again, but I thought the referee was coming to give both of them a yellow card.

“I was surprised he booked Conor, to be honest.

“But fair play to Jimmy he admitted to Conor afterwards that it was a 50-50 challenge and he was shocked to see him being sent off as well as being carried off.”

The big away support were on their feet to acclaim a goal on eight minutes when Donnelly cut in from the right to cleverly dink the ball over the out-rushing Chris Johns - only for Hume to get back and flick the ball off the line.

Having soaked up the early pressure, the Blues were almost in front on 19 minutes.

Shay McCartan almost cut Matty Clarke in half with a scything tackle on the left and when Kyle McClean whipped in the free-kick, Callacher’s towering effort arrowed narrowly past the post.

They Blues did finally break the door down by forging ahead nine minutes before the interval.

Clarke flighted in the most delicious of deliveries, which just eluded the head of Christy Manzinga, but Hume arrived to thunder an unstoppable drive past Aaron McCarey.

The Blues roared out from the traps after the restart.

Cameron Palmer twisted and turned his way past Joe Crowe inside the box before pulling the ball back to Jordan Stewart, whose low drive was superbly saved by McCarey...when the ball broke to Chris Shields on the edge of the box, his effort was somehow smuggled for a corner-kick.

Manzinga then should have put the home team out of sight when sent through on a one-and-one with McCarey by the lively Stewart, but the big former Motherwell man hesitated, allowing the goalkeeper and Crowe get across to make a telling block.

The game erupted for all the wrong reasons on 57 minutes when McMenamin appeared to lung into a challenge with Callacher that left both players rolling in agony.

Following a lengthy period of treatment, the Glentoran man was stretched off – but not before referee Davey issued him with a red card. Callacher also had to be replaced by Sam Roscoe.

Linfield had another great chance to kill off their opponents with 19 minutes remaining.

Kirk Millar’s cross was superbly headed back into the box by Clarke, only for Stewart to blaze his shot over the top.

Against all the odds the Glens were back on terms on 73 minutes.

With Callacher missing, Donnelly was allowed time and space to power home a brilliant cross from Hrvoje Plum with a flick of his head.

“It was a game we should have won,” insisted Blues boss David Healy afterwards. “We were the better team.

“We couldn’t get to grips with the first 10 minutes or so, but when we changed formation, we dominated the game.

“Glentoran will be happy to come away with a hard-earned point.

“I couldn’t fault the players, that was a good as we have played for some time.

“If anything, the red card probably disrupted us more than it did Glentoran...I think it helped galvanize them a bit more.

“They were happy to sit in and hit us on the break, but we limited them to few chances.”

LINFIELD: Johns, Hume, Newberry, Callacher, Clarke, Shields, Mulgrew (Millar, 55), Palmer, McClean, Stewart, Manzinga (Salam, 67).

Subs (not used): Walsh, Roscoe, M.Donnelly, Quinn, Clarke.

GLENTORAN: McCarey, Marshall, Crowe, McClean, Burns, McCartan (Bigirimana, 62), Plum, Clucas, R.Donnelly (Smith, 88), J.Donnelly (Garrett, 93), McMenamin.

Subs (not used): Glendinning, Mitchell, Wightman, Jenkins.

REFEREE: Andrew Davey.

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