Cliftonville were left to bemoan both their own slow start and referee Andrew Davey’s bizarre interpretation of the handball law following this afternoon’s 2-1 defeat to Linfield.
Behind when Jimmy Callacher put the Blues ahead during a first-half in which the hosts failed to get going, the Reds were infuriated when Mark Stafford’s clear use of the arm to charge down a goalbound effort from Ruairi Harkin was not penalised with the award of a penalty kick.
Soon later, the visitors doubled their advantage and, again, the man with the whistle was centre of attention. After somehow contriving not to award Cliftonville a free-kick when a prostrate Jamie Mulgrew reached out and dragged the ball back towards his body with his hand, ref Davey seconds later awarded a set-piece in the other direction; Tomas Cosgrove getting the final touch to send the ball over the line with Achille Campion lurking.
Jay Donnelly pulled one back with just under 10 minutes left on the clock and, though he and brother Rory threatened with headers, Cliftonville were unable to fashion a late leveller.
Cliftonville: Neeson, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Harkin, Bagnall, Gormley, J. Donnelly, Cosgrove, McDonald. Subs: Dunne, Garrett (Harkin, 76 mins), Winchester, Grimes, R Donnelly (Gormley, 64 mins)
Matchball Sponsor: JC Ceilings
Half Gate Draw Number: 76320