Joe Gormley pounced in the last minute to earn Cliftonville another dramatic victory over Glentoran in a gripping Danske Bank Premiership encounter at Solitude.
While grateful to goalkeeper Richard Brush for a number of fine saves, the Reds had looked set to surrender two points courtesy of a string of missed chances before Gormley picked his spot to ensure the hosts’ dominance was rewarded with three points.
Before the re-start, the Glens had stand-in skipper Ross Redman dismissed for a second booking after speaking out of turn to the referee ahead of Cliftonville seeing things out in injury-time.
The first half-chance of the contest came on 13 minutes when Jay Donnelly was unable to get sufficient power on his header from Chris Curran’s corner and, soon later, elder brother Rory suffered a similar fate from a Ross Lavery delivery.
On 28 minutes, Rory Donnelly should have broken the deadlock when he seized on another Lavery cross but, after bringing the ball down on his chest, blazed over the bar with just goalkeeper Elliott Morris to beat.
Another Curran corner caused havoc when, from Garry Breen’s header, both Donnelly siblings saw attempts charged down while, nine minutes after the interval, Glentoran saw a glorious chance go to waste when Redman found Conor Pepper who, one-on-one with Brush, saw the ball taken off his toe by a fantastic last-ditch touch from Lavery.
Within minutes, Brush had twice come to Cliftonville’s rescue with two point-blank stops to thwart McDaid before a Redman set-piece almost ended with Jaimie McGovern touching the ball into his own net.
Six minutes from time, Gormley looked set to break the deadlock following good work from Jay Donnelly but Morris was quick off his line to stop the striker converting his lobbed attempt.
With the Reds continuing to build pressure, Morris denied Gormley again before a well-timed touched from Nathan Kerr prevented Jay Donnelly from getting a shot away inside the area.
There was further drama to come, however, when Lavery beat McDaid to a ball on the halfway line, allowing Ryan Catney to spread a delightful pass forward. Jay Donnelly’s smart touch sent possession in Gormley’s direction and he dug the ball out of his feet to stroke into the bottom corner just as the clock was ticking into injury-time.
Glentoran protests over a foul in the build-up to the goal earned Redman a second booking before the visitors could even re-start the game, ensuring Cliftonville would end the afternoon with both numerical and goal advantages.
Cliftonville: Brush, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C Curran, R Donnelly, Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, Lavery, Maguire. Subs: Harney, R. Curran (Maguire, 57 mins), Garrett (R Donnelly, 66 mins), Neeson, McDonald, McConnell, McMenamin
Match Sponsor: EG Freight
Matchball Sponsor: Conlaoch Rogan
Half Gate Draw Number: 93783