Cliftonville 0-1 Linfield
Cliftonville were left frustrated as Linfield held on to take all three Danske Bank Premiership points at Solitude this afternoon.
Trailing to a Jimmy Callacher header, the Reds – who had earlier gone close through Joe Gormley, Ruaidhri Donnelly and Conor McMenamin – were left cursing their luck in the closing stages when a host of penalty appeals for handling inside the box were ignored by referee Andrew Davey, who earned further ire from the home support after appearing to change his mind over the issuing of a booking that would have seen visiting forward Andy Waterworth dismissed.
Despite making three positive changes from the bench, Cliftonville were unable to force a leveller and saw their best chance of doing so come and go when Chris Curran did well to eek out some space for himself inside the area only for his cut-back to fall outside the stride of namesake Ryan Curran in the middle.
It was the skipper’s midfield endeavour that provided the first opportunity of the game when, after dispossessing Bastien Hery, he teed Gormley up for a strike that was deflected just wide.
Soon later, Garry Breen’s attempt to set Donnelly away was thwarted by alert Linfield goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson, who was also quickly off his line to deny the same player from a Gormley pass minutes later.
A superb tackle from Chris Casement then frustrated Conor McMenamin, who would tuck a decent opening wide after being played through by Chris Curran just past the half-hour.
The Blues’ best chance of the opening half came when Conor McDermott’s sliced clearance called Richard Brush into action in a busy goalmouth, but the visitors started the second-half with purpose and, following a series of corners, eventually made their pressure tell when Callcher got on the end of Kirk Millar’s delivery.
In response, a smart passing sequence ended with Donnelly being challenged just as he was about to get his shot away before Gormley’s flicked header called Ferguson into action.
McDermott then saw a shot blocked and Donnelly scooped a volley over the top as Cliftonville began to take control of proceedings.
On 68 minutes, the Currans almost linked up to devastating effect only for Chris’ low cross to fall just behind Ryan ahead of the controversial incident that saw Waterworth – already booked for a dangerous challenge on Liam Bagnall – spared a second yellow card for fouling Brush.
The closing exchanges saw the Reds lay siege to the visiting goal and, after having a series of penalty claims dismissed – with the one against Niall Quinn arguably the most compelling – were indebted to Brush for a fantastic save which prevented Millar from doubling Linfield’s lead following a breakaway.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Ives, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R. Donnelly, Bagnall, Gormley, McMenamin. Subs: Dunne, Garrett (R Curran, 77 mins), Foster, Wilson (Bagnall, 79 mins), Maguire (Breen, 82 mins), A Donnelly, Gorman.
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Half Gate Draw Number: 113601