Joe Gormley struck a double as Cliftonville roared back from behind with a scintillating second-half performance against Ballinamallard United in this evening’s friendly.
Trailing to Ryan Campbell’s well-executed lob at the interval, the Red – who had fashioned a series of promising openings without taking advantage – levelled shortly after the turnaround when Gormley stroked home.
Jay Donnelly’s bullet header, which it’s understood Ryan Catney is claiming to have glanced into the net, made it 2-1 before Stephen Garrett added the third.
Gormley added his second of the night with a close-range header and, after Caoimhin McConnell’s stunning solo strike put Cliftonville 5-1 to the good, Trialist B capped a bright display when he completed the scoring in the final minutes.
The Reds almost got off to the perfect start when, with just four minutes on the clock, Jay Donnelly set off on a soaring run down the left and, when his shot was blocked by John Connolly, Gormley contrived to steer the rebound over the bar from practically a yard out.
Former Cliftonville keeper Connolly – bizarrely wearing the ‘Brush 1’ shirt vacated by the man making his first Cliftonville appearance at the other end of the park – made another save to thwart Levi Ives before United pulled ahead courtesy of that smart Campbell finish.
Gormley thought he’d equalised on 26 minutes with a lobbed attempt of his own only for a defender to first stop the ball on the line and somehow prevent Rory Donnelly from converting.
Catney and Chris Curran each sent efforts off target before the break but it didn’t take long for tthe Reds to get their angles right following the turnaround; Gormley finishing from Jay Donnelly’s assist before Donnelly – or possibly Catney – made it 2-1 with a header from Conor McMenamin’s corner.
Garrett added the third before Connolly made way for Tim Harney – brother of Cliftonville defender Jamie – who made a brace of good saves before being beaten by Gormley’s header.
There was nothing he could do to prevent McConnell making it 5-1 as the youngster weaved his way past a host of challenges before picking his spot in the top corner with a delightful curling strike.
The night’s scoring was wrapped up in the final minutes when Trialist B – who had already caught the eye with a series of forward surges – confidently found the net from Garrett’s cutback.
Cliftonville: Brush, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, A Donnelly. Subs: Harney (for Breen), Garrett (for R Curran), Trialist A (for C Curran), Neeson (for Brush), McConnell (for Catney), Trialist B (for J Donnelly), Crane (for A Donnelly), Lavery (for Ives), McMenamin (for R Donnelly), Tully (for Gormley).