With little more than a week having passed since Cliftonville brought the curtain down on the 2018/19 season and as the countdown to next month’s Europa League Preliminary Round draw gathers pace, cliftonvillefc.net kicks off a new weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of the term just finished.
Every Monday, we’ll take a chronological look back on a new month from the campaign – with August’s commencement of the Danske Bank Premiership programme taking centre stage today.
The Reds’ new domestic programme began just as the old one had ended, with a clash against vanquished Europa League Play-off foes Glentoran. As had been the case in the previous meeting, and continuing a theme that would permeate throughout the season ahead, Cliftonville left it late to claim victory.
Trailing to a first-half effort from John McGuigan, the Reds levelled matters when Joe Gormley pounced for a smart finish inside the area before Jay Donnelly’s injury-time winner secured the three points that the visitors’ performance had merited.
Seven days on – and following a midweek friendly success against Immaculata – Cliftonville found themselves on the wrong side of just such an outcome when Coleraine claimed a last-gasp win at Solitude.
Gormley’s deflected free-kick levelled matters after the scoring had been opened by substitute Aaron Burns, who would go on to have the day’s final say with an eye-catching strike in the closing seconds.
There was more late drama when the Reds reported to Stangmore Park the following weekend, when Dungannon Swifts looked set for victory courtesy of Mark Patton’s effort only for Donnelly to rescue a draw which could still have been transformed into a win had Garry Breen not seen a 90th minute header blocked on the line.
Cliftonville’s frustrations would continue into round four of Premiership action thanks, inevitably, to another late goal – this time an unorthodox finish from Michael O’Connor earning 10-man Linfield a draw at Solitude, where the hosts had pulled in front thanks to an inch-perfect header from Gormley (main image).
The Reds channeled their exasperation into a convincing victory over Lisburn Distillery in a League Cup Second Round tie that saw Caoimhin McConnell register a debut goal in addition to strikes from Gormley (2), Donnelly and Conor McMenamin, whose composed finish in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper would be a harbinger of greater things to come.
August ended with supporters nominating Gormley – who netted five goals in the opening weeks of the campaign – 2018/19’s first Sean Graham Player of the Month as Cliftonville maintained hopes of an improved September which would kick off with a trip to face newly promoted Newry City…
Glentoran 1-2 Cliftonville
Gormley, J Donnelly
Immaculata 2-5 Cliftonville
R Donnelly , J Donnelly, McConnell, McMenamin
Cliftonville 1-2 Coleraine
Dungannon Swifts 1-1 Cliftonville
Cliftonville 1-1 Linfield
Cliftonville 5-1 Lisburn Distillery
Gormley , J Donnelly, McConnell, McMenamin