Super-sub Joe Gormley emerged from the bench to earn Cliftonville all three Danske Bank Premiership points with a deadly double against Carrick Rangers this afternoon.
Trailing to Eamonn McAllister’s bizarre third minute opener when the winger’s wind-assisted delivery found the net direct from a corner, the Reds levelled when Gormley finished coolly following a wonderful solo run and would go on to deservedly win the game when Gormley tucked home a late penalty after Garry Breen had been barged over inside the area – securing Cliftonville’s first away success and first spot-kick conversion since our last visit to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena on December 17, 2016.
Things could barely have got off to a worse start for Cliftonville as Carrick took the lead in strange circumstances when, after turning Mark Edgar’s long-range free-kick over the bar, goalkeeper Brian Neeson was powerless to prevent McAllister’s subsequent corner delivery sailing into the net.
The Reds responded well, though, and a low Ross Lavery cross caused minor havoc in the home goalmouth before a looping Rory Donnelly effort came back off the post with keeper Harry Doherty well beaten.
Donnelly was out of luck again when he came within inches of connecting with a Tomas Cosgrove delivery before the Reds had penalty appeals waved away when referee Andrew Davey ruled that a foul on Jay Donnelly had occurred just outside the area; his elder sibling Rory smashing the free-kick against the wall.
Boss Barry Gray made two changes at the break as Gormley joined Martin Donnelly in replacing Donnellys Jay and Aaron respectively but it was the hosts who came closest to the next goal, with Ben Roy wasting a glorious opening by rushing his shot harmlessly wide.
Cliftonville levelled on 66 minutes with an incisive breakaway that was all about Gormley’s strength, determination and composure. Roy saw his shot charged down by Cosgrove and, when Chris Curran lashed the ball to safety, Gormley took centre stage to out-muscle Stuart McMullan and ghost past Denver Gage before coolly slotting past Doherty into the bottom corner.
The momentum now very much with the Reds, they were almost ahead shortly afterwards when Gormley pounced on Rory Donnelly’s knockdown only to prod his first-time attempt over the top, before Aaron Smyth’s goal-line clearance prevented Jude Winchester from capitalising on Gormley’s ball across the face of goal.
Doherty dealt with efforts from Rory Donnelly and Curran before Cliftonville were awarded a penalty when Breen was bundled over by Paddy McNally; Gormley stepping up to confidently dispatch from the spot ahead of the visitors comfortably seeing things out to secure a long overdue away day success.
Cliftonville: Neeson, Cosgrove, McGovern, Breen, A Donnelly, Curran, Bagnall, Winchester, Lavery; J Donnelly, R Donnelly. Subs: Harney, Hughes (for Winchester), M Donnelly (for A Donnelly), Caldwell, Gormley (for J Donnelly).
Half Gate Draw number: 60184