Cliftonville fell to North Belfast Derby defeat in controversial circumstances at Seaview this afternoon.
Gavin Whyte scored both of Crusaders’ goals, but the Reds felt that referee Raymond Crangle and his officials had missed clear fouls in the build-up to both.
Jay Donnelly was taken out of the game by David Cushley as Whyte opened the scoring early on and, just seconds after Joe Gormley had been felled on the edge of the hosts’ box in injury-time, Crusaders broke upfield to double their advantage.
The first shot of the afternoon came from Cushley, whose long-range attempt sailed wide, before Billy Joe Burns’ intervention stopped Jay Donnelly from seizing on Daniel Hughes’ cross at the other end.
The deadlock was broken on 12 minutes following an incident that left the visitors asking serious questions of the referee. He somehow failed to spot Cushley’s blatant body-slam of Jay Donnelly, allowing Whyte to gain possession just outside he box and, after getting the better of Garry Breen, his shot found the net courtesy of a telling deflection off Jamie Harney.
A foul on Rory Donnelly saw Raymond Crangle dismiss strong penalty appeals before the same player miscued off target from a decent position.
Shortly after the break, Declan Caddell should have done better from Whyte’s cross ahead of goalkeeper Brian Neeson hoofing clear after Harney, Caddell and Jordan Owens had contested a spot of goalmouth pinball.
Neeson then saved from Whyte and Philip Lowry and, with the Reds offering very little in attack, a long-range Jude Winchester effort provided little threat ahead of the hosts’ doubling their lead – and, again, the referee played a key role, allowing play to continue following a clear foul on Gormley, with Whyte once again taking full advantage to make it 2-0.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Hughes, Bagnall, Winchester, J Donnelly, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Garrett (J Donnelly, 64 mins), Gormley (Hughes, 76 mins), Lavery, Cosgrove (Curran, 73 mins).