IRISH LEAGUE: Honours shared as Glentoran battle back to draw with Linfield

Linfield  Mark Haughey  (right) scores the opening goal past Glentoran goal keeper Elliott Morris

Linfield Mark Haughey (right) scores the opening goal past Glentoran goal keeper Elliott Morris

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LINFIELD 1 GLENTORAN 1

Aaron Harmon grabbed a second half equaliser to put a huge dent in Linfield’s Danske Premiership title hopes at Windsor Park.

Glentoran were largely under the cosh, especailly in the first half, and went in at half time trailing to a Mark Haughey strike.

But the Glens appeared for the second half with renewed confidence and Harmon sent the big away support into raptures by heading his team level.

The visitors were then forced to play out the last five minutes with only 10 men after Stevie McAlorum was dismissed.

With title holders Crusaders winning easily at Solitude, it means the Blues now trail Stephen Baxter’s team by a whopping seven points. Even at this stage, it’s an awful long way back.

Blues boss Healy was forced into a reshuffle , drafting in Chris Casement and Aaron Burns for the suspended Mark Stafford and the unavailable Ross Gaynor.

Gary Haveron also reshaped his side, with Ross Redman and Jonathan Smith reinstated with 15 year old Ethan Warnock dropping out while Stevie Gordon was injured.

Linfield were almost in front on five minutes when Kirk Millar’s free kick was met by Jimmy Callacher, but his header flicked off Stevie McAlorum and on to the top of the crossbar, much to the relief of Elliott Morris.

Then from Niall Quinn’s corner kick, Burns’ low header slipped past the post.

The Blues were right out of luck again on 10 minutes. Jamie Mulgrew’s clever pass sent Millar hurtling into the box and when his cross found Burns at the back post he looked a certain scorer, only to see his shot deflected over the top.

But the bug home support were on their feet seconds later. Quinn’s corner kick was met by the towering Haughey and his header roared past Morris.

It was almost two on 19 minutes. Burns took off on a brilliant solo dash, weaving past tackle after tackle, but his shot was superbly pushed past the post by the outstretched glove of Morris.

Andy Waterworth then tried his luck from the edge of the box and, with Morris again beaten, the ball inched agonisingly over the top.

But Morris came to the east Belfast team’s rescue eight minutes from the break when he catapulted across his line to keep out a great effort from Burns following another exquisite cross from Millar.

Astonishingly, the over-run Glens wre back on terms on 60 minutes.

Curtis Allen’s vision sent Redman free on the left. He whipped in great ball which found the unmarked Harmon at the back post and his looping header gave Roy Carroll no chance.

The Blues tried to respond with Haughey scooping another Quinn corner kick into the side netting before Casement glanced yet another cross from the defender past the post.

But the Glens had a loud penalty appeal turned down eight minutes from time when substitute Ciaran Caldwell latched on to an Allen pass and as he attempted to take the ball around Carroll, but buckled under the challenge. Referee Ian NcNabb wasn’t impressed.

The game then exploded for all the wrong reasons when McAlorum clattered into a horrible challenge on Sean Ward, leaving the referee with little choice but produce a red card.

Glentoran could have won it right at the finish, but Carroll somehow got down to beat away a Nacho Novo drive with his legs.

Linfield: Carroll, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry (Stewart 77), Millar (Carson 66), Burns, Ward, Casement, Mulgrew, Quinn.

Unused subs: Clarke, Fallon, Glendinning.

Glentoran: Morris, Birney, Magee, Allen (Ferrin 87), Lavery, Foley (Caldwell 77), Harmon, Addis, McAlorum, Smith (Novo 61), Redman.

Unused subs: O’Flynn, Nelson.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey).