Dungannon Swifts 1-1 Cliftonville
Jay Donnelly rescued a point for Cliftonville just when Dungannon Swifts looked set to punish the Reds for failing to take their chances at Stangmore Park this afternoon.
After a dominant first-half in which Chris Curran hit the bar, Conor McMenamin was denied by a smart save from goalkeeper Alex Moore and a raft of openings ended with both Donnelly and Joe Gormley going close, the visitors were rocked when the Swifts – who somehow saw Seanan Clucas escape with just a yellow card for an x-rated challenge on McMenamin – pulled ahead courtesy of Mark Patton’s well-taken strike just past the hour.
Cliftonville poured forward in search of an equaliser and, for the third time in as many Danske Bank Premiership outings this season, there was late drama as Gormley teed Donnelly up to make it 1-1 with two minutes left on the clock.
The visitors’ first opportunity came inside the opening minutes when a foul on Donnelly earned a free-kick, which saw McMenamin call Moore into early action.
Soon later, Gormley provided the pass from which Curran worked himself some space only to see his curling left-footed strike come back off the crossbar and, after Paul McElroy had missed the target at the other end, an acrobatic Gormley effort flew over the top.
Gormley saw another fierce effort beaten away by Moore, who also got down well to turn a McMenamin drive behind before Gormley’s persistence forced an opening but, with both McMenamin and Curran waiting on a pass, the striker blasted a low attempt into the side netting.
Another acrobatic Gormley attempt sailed over but he looked poised to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, only for Donnelly to take Curran’s cross off his toe just as he was about to pull the trigger.
The action wasn’t quite so one-way after the interval but that might have been different had referee Tony Clarke seen fit to show Clucas the red card that visiting fans were demanding after the Swifts’ full-back chopped McMenamin down with a high lunge.
Within 60 seconds of that foul, Cliftonville came agonisingly close to forcing the breakthrough when Curran’s knockdown fell for Gormley, whose vicious snapshot whistled over the top with Moore well beaten.
McElroy provided a couple of warnings of Dungannon’s threat with two chances that he failed to make the most of but it wasn’t long before team-mate Patton showed how it should be done; his well-taken half-volley from just outside the box giving goalkeeper Richard Brush no chance.
The Reds felt they should have had a penalty almost immediately when Donnelly was felled by Clucas and they were frustrated yet again on 73 minutes when Donnelly fired wide after substitute Stephen Garrett had picked him out with a pass from the flank.
The same player made a mess of another opportunity when he cut in from the left and, after Gormley had lashed a free-kick high and wide, the equaliser finally came when Thomas Maguire played Gormley in on the left and he set up strike partner Donnelly for a smart first-time finish.
Cliftonville’s best chance to win the game arrived just as the clock hit 90 minutes when Garry Breen’s back-post header was blocked on the line and eventually blasted clear by a Swifts defence that will have been relieved to hear the final whistle soon later.
Cliftonville: Brush, McGovern, Harney, Breen, Ives, C Curran, Catney, Bagnall, McMenamin, J Donnelly, Gormley. Subs: Neeson, Garrett (McMenamin, 67 mins), White, McConnell, Lavery, Mauire (Bagnall, 71 mins), A Donnelly.