With little more than a fortnight having passed since Cliftonville brought the curtain down on the 2017/18 season and as the countdown to next month’s Europa League First Qualifying Round draw gathers pace, cliftonvillefc.net continues a new weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of the campaign just finished.
Every Monday, we’ll take a chronological look back on a new month from Barry Gray’s first year at the helm – with August’s commencement of the Danske Bank Premiership programme taking centre stage today.
Having completed their warm-up schedule with a convincing 9-0 defeat of near neighbours Newington, the Reds saw Solitude host a similar goal glut seven days later when Ards were our opening day guests.
Trailing in the opening minutes, Cliftonville hit back through Jay Donnelly, Joe Gormley and Chris Curran to roar into a 3-1 advantage that was cut when Ards reduced the arrears just before the interval. Any fears of a home capitulation were swept away when an eye-catching own goal put the Reds 4-2 up before Gormley and Donnelly completed their braces ahead of the visitors registering a late consolation in a breathless 6-3 success.
A few days later, however, Gray’s charges produced a less than impressive display in defeat to Coleraine at The Showgrounds and could count themselves unfortunate to only come away with a point to show for their efforts against Ballinamallard United the following weekend.
A North Belfast Derby loss to Crusaders would follow before Cliftonville wrapped up the first month of the new season by coasting past the challenge of Banbridge United in the Second Round of the League Cup ahead of supporters nominating Jay Donnelly – who netted five goals in the opening weeks of the campaign – 2017/18’s first Sean Graham Player of the Month.
Cliftonville 9-0 Newington
Gormley , J Donnelly , Caldwell, Garrett , Winchester, Hughes
Cliftonville 6-3 Ards
J Donnelly , Gormley , Curran, OG
Coleraine 2-0 Cliftonville
Ballinamallard United 1-1 Cliftonville
Cliftonville 1-2 Crusaders
Cliftonville 4-0 Banbridge Town
Curran, J Donnelly , Gormley