To quote every old woman from East Belfast ever “it’s never long running in!” Of course, they’re usually talking about the run up to Christmas as opposed to the back end of the Irish League season but the idiom fits.
We needed to improve upon a poor run in December despite the solitary win not seeming to do our league position any harm as we continued to cling on to 3rd place. Alas, it wouldn’t be Glentoran without some sort of managerial crisis, would it?
January got off to a flyer in the league with consecutive wins over Dungannon and Crusaders sandwiching a dire loss on penalties to Glenavon in the Irish Cup – making it three penalty exits from the three cup competitions.
A loss away to Coleraine was bad but following that up with a home defeat against Glenavon (our third loss to Glenavon out of four games played against them so far) had the board on my back. Alas, I met with the board and they issued me with…
Yes! Five games to save my job. I was tasked with finding 9 points in the next five fixtures: Linfield away, Institute at home, Cliftonville away then Cliftonville again at home before the final assessment away to Glenavon at, punningly brilliantly named, Mourneview Park.
Two penalties to twice drag us back on level terms against Linfield at the National Stadium had our points tally off and running. Second-from-bottom Institute at home should have been a foregone conclusion but the narrative wouldn’t allow it to be – a scoreless draw only doubled our points tally and put the pressure on.
Cliftonville away was more comfortable than the result shows – we were 3-1 to the good before a 92nd minute goal for the Reds reduced the deficit. If Cliftonville away was comfortable then Cliftonville at home was ‘resting in the armchair, mug of tea in hand, slippers on reading the results’ comfortable! An emphatic 4-0 win had me (quite literally) jumping for joy at my laptop. The current points tally at 8, only a draw needed away to newly crowned champions Glenavon was required.
Glenavon were not yet ready to take their foot off the pedal and, yet again this season, we had to come from behind TWICE to rescue a draw. Hrvoje Plum’s 90th minute winner seeing us scrape the 9 point minimum requirement. The Mourneview Ultimatum met!
We clawed back from two goals down at home to Linfield only to throw it away in the final minute giving ground to Linfield in the race for European football. Coleraine blitzed us aside in the next game with Allen’s 26th and 27th league goals of the season scant consolation as this condemned us to a 5th place finish in the league.
I decided to switch things up against Ballymena and went from our 4-2-3-1 to a straight 4-4-2, the change appeared to do a world of good as we were 3-0 up before half time. If the fixture hadn’t been a dead rubber I may have attempted to shut the game down and play out a clean sheet but I allowed us to keep attacking which left the door open for their two goals in response.
We finish the season in 5th place, it’s what the board expected pre-season. Despite meeting expectations I am a little disappointed as, for a long time, it appeared that we may just sneak into one of the European spots! Regardless, we’ve left ourselves on a good platform for next season’s attack.
End of Season review
Above is a quick snapshot of a few select stats across the first team squad. Marijan Anatolovic stands out after playing every single minute of football this season!
Curtis Allen led the way in goals with a total of 51 between them, while Tom Byrne and Navid Nasseri amassed a combined total of 25 assists.
Hrvoje Plum – Glentoran FC player 2019/20
Sadly Hrvoje Plum’s stay at The Oval was a little more brief than I’d have liked. I alluded to our contract quarrels on Twitter recently:
As it happens, as soon as January came Hrvoje agreed a pre-contract move to Saudi Arabia side Al-Adalah.
The 25 year old made 34 appearances this season scoring 6 goals and laying on 8 assists. His average rating clocked in at 7.12 despite amassing 9 bookings and 3 red cards.
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Plum’s future in the game with a view to trying to attract him back again at some point. For now, I leave you with another Peach From Plum™ to join the collection!