Glentoran 2 Armagh City 1
Armagh City came within a whisker of forcing Glentoran into extra-time during their sixth-round Irish Cup replay at The Oval on Saturday.
But a cruel score by David Scullion just before the final whistle was to deprive the local outfit of prolonging the tie.
City were brave in defeat but, in hindsight, could and should have won the match after a strong second-half display.
Glentoran did start the better but were well held throughout the opening period by a keen Armagh defence, where centre-back Dara Noonan and goalkeeper Sean Morgan looked particularly safe and secure.
Any inroads the Belfast side made were largely down the left flank where Aaron Boyd and Scullion, prompted by midfielder Stephen McAlorum, looked the most dangerous attacking option.
When City looked to have achieved their plan to keep the match scoreless at the break, tragedy struck.
A mazy run by Boyd into the box on 44 minutes was ended when he was caught by the trailing leg of the unfortunate Noonan and Comber ref Colin Burns immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
Glentoran, who had missed a spot-kick in the opening tie at Armagh, where not to make the same mistake again and their regular marksman, Jay Magee, hit a brisk strike just out of the reach of the diving Morgan.
This was a body blow just before the break but it only served to inspire the never-say-die City who were a completely different outfit after te break.
Philip Donnelly was pushed up alongside lone striker Stephen Murray and this double threat immediatley put the Glens’ defence under pressure.
Both players quickly had half-chances before the visitors set up three golden opportunities to find the net.
Gareth Grimley could have become an instant hero when he raced in from the right flank and curled a superb effort around home ‘keeper Elliot Morris, only for the ball to fly narrowly wide.
Murray also sent the ball wide after another stamina-sapping run and the ball then flashed over the Glentoran crossbar following an Armagh corner from the right.
City were now raising a real head of steam and they deservedly equalised on 80 minutes when sub Kevin Keegan released Murray who fought off the attentions of Garrett before firing home a low 15-yard shot past the onrushing Morris.
And, eight minutes later, Armagh almost claimed victory when a stinging shot from Donnelly was charged down by the Glens’ stopper but, as Murray moved in for the kill, defender Calum Birney just managed to clear the danger.
Just before the final whistle the home side mounted a raid down the right and, despite clearing the danger on two occasions, the ball came back into the box once again and Scullion flew in between two City defenders to stab a close-range low shot past the dispairing Morgan.
City had literally no time to recover as, a minute later, the final whistle was blown and Armagh’s cup challenge had come to a sad end.
Nevertheless, this was a brave and determined effort to take the spoils and was readily recognised by the sporting Glentoran fans who gave City a superb reception as they left the field of play.
Best on the day for City were Morgan, Noonan, midfielder Matthew Hynds, Donnelly and Murray.
Glentoran: Morris, Hill, Garrett, Birney, Magee, Scullion, McGuigan (O’Hanlon on 81), Clarke, McAlorum, Boyd (Henderson 66), Allen.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan (y/c), Dale Montgomey, Paul Carvill, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Eamon Kelly, Gareth Grimley, Liam Cullen, Stephen Murray, Philip Donnelly, Matthew Hynds (Kevin Keegan on 80).
Ref: Mr Colin Burns (Comber).