Injury-hit Cliftonville went down to a soft penalty against Coleraine at The Showgrounds this afternoon.
Leading at the break courtesy of a fine individual effort from Jay Donnelly, the Reds lost both their goalscorer and striker Joe Gormley early in the second-half and were never able to generate any consistent momentum thereafter.
The hosts took full advantage with Stephen Dooley levelling matters before Eoin Bradley didn’t need much encouragement to tumble inside the box, earning a late spot-kick which Jamie McGonigle dispatched.
All of which meant for a disappointing end to a contest that the visitors had started well; Donnelly clattering the woodwork after a Ruairi Harkin attempt had been charged down inside a crowded penalty area.
Donnelly would make no mistake on 36 minutes, however, when he assumed possession from Gormley just inside the Cliftonville half and set off on a surge that would take him past Ciaron and Lyndon Kane before producing a firm low drive that was too hot for keeper Chris Johns to handle.
The Bannsiders’ stopper did make a superb fingertip stop to thwart Gormley minutes after the turnaround, however referee Tim Marshall and his assistant somehow contrived to award a goal kick – and the Reds’ frustrations would grow further when, within minutes, Gormley and Donnelly were both forced off with injuries that necessitated a significant shuffling of the pack from boss Barry Gray.
Struggling to retain any kind of rhythm in the wake of those enforced chances, Cliftonville were grateful for Jamie Harney’s goal-line clearance stopping Darren McCauley levelling matters and Brian Neeson turned a Dooley header over the top before Coleraine restored parity when Dooley pounced on Shane Grimes’ miscued clearance to find the bottom corner.
Josh Carson and McCauley each went close to putting Coleraine ahead but, as the clock ticked down, it was left to Bradley to intervene; dragging Ives to the floor and conveniently tripping over him to earn a penalty that McGonigle stepped up to convert.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Harney, Curran, Harkin, Gormley, J Donnelly, Grimes, McDonald, R Donnelly. Subs: Mooney, Garrett (Gormley, 48 mins), Winchester, Lavery, Cosgrove (J Donnelly, 48 mins).