With less than a fortnight until the new Danske Bank Premiership season kicks off, cliftonvillefc.net continues a weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of the 2017/18 campaign.
Every Monday, we’re taking a chronological look back on a new month from Barry Gray’s first year at the helm – with the post-split fixtures of April falling under our spotlight today.
Having just booked their place in the Tennent’s Irish Cup Final, Cliftonville travelled to The Ballymena Showgrounds for a midweek appointment with the Sky Blues and wasted little time in taking control of proceedings thanks to Joe Gormley’s opener in the first few minutes.
The dismissal of home striker Cathair Friel handed the Reds a numerical boost they immediately took advantage of, with Rory Donnelly making it 2-0 before putting the seal on victory by adding a third in the closing exchanges.
A few days later, the concession of a last-minute penalty allowed Coleraine to claim all three points from a game their visitors had led courtesy of Jay Donnelly’s first-half strike, while Glenavon’s subsequent 3-1 win at Solitude – when Gormley was on target for the hosts – virtually ruled out any hopes of automatic European qualification, meaning Cliftonville’s chances hinged on success in either the Irish Cup or Europa League Play-Offs.
Even so, Gray’s charges were to end their Danske Bank Premiership campaign in encouraging fashion by picking up four points from two tricky away dates with Crusaders and Linfield.
Gormley stunned Seaview with an outrageous strike from distance as the North Belfast Derby ended in a 1-1 draw while, the following week, Jude Winchester and Daniel Reynolds found the net when the Blues were overcome at Windsor Park before April, which concluded with supporters nominating Gormley as their Sean Graham Player of the Month, made way for that eagerly-anticipated Cup Final date and Cliftonville’s battle to secure continental football.
Ballymena United 0-3 Cliftonville
Gormley, R Donnelly 
Coleraine 2-1 Cliftonville
Cliftonville 1-3 Glenavon
Crusaders 1-1 Cliftonville
Linfield 1-2 Cliftonville