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Monday Monthly: October

With little more than a three weeks having passed since Cliftonville brought the curtain down on the 2018/19 season and as the countdown to this month’s Europa League Preliminary Round draw gathers pace, continues 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 an up-and-down October taking centre stage today.

The action began with a milestone moment when, in the BBC’s first live broadcast of the Danske Bank Premiership, Joe Gormley’s 14th minute penalty against Crusaders saw him surpass Kevin McGarry as the leading scorer in Cliftonville’s history.

By early in the second-half, however, the Crues had turned things around to lead before Gormley’s second successful spot-kick of the night looked to have earned a share of the North Belfast Derby spoils only for the hosts to snatch full points deep into injury-time.

There was further late drama when the Reds welcomed Carrick Rangers to Solitude for a League Cup Third Round clash a few days later; Levi Ives and Gormley putting Cliftonville 2-0 up only for Carrick to hit back and level with three minutes to play.

Before Extra-Time arrived, however, a moment of magic from Gormley put the home side back in front as they held on to claim a fortunate win and their place in the last-eight of the competition.

Their Premiership trip to face Glenavon postponed due to international call-ups, a further week-and-a-half would elapse before Cliftonville returned to duty with a home tie against a Warrenpoint Town outfit that had inflicted a late smash-and-grab act on them just the previous month.

On this occasion, however, the Reds took full control with Garry Breen and Levi Ives on target in the first-half ahead of Jay Donnelly putting the seal on a 3-1 win just 60 seconds after Town had threatened another comeback by reducing the deficit.

Seaview was the team’s next port of call for a County Antrim Shield Quarter-Final clash that, just like a few weeks prior, ended in disappointment.

Behind after just two minutes and 2-1 down in the second-half, Cliftonville levelled through Rory Donnelly and then Ryan Curran to force Extra-Time, during which Donnelly put the visitors in front for the first time on the night only for the immediate concession of an equaliser to halt their momentum before an almost comical winner was shipped as Crusaders held on for a 4-3 win.

If Derby defeats were becoming customary, the month ended with that rarest of treats – a win at the Coleraine Showgrounds.

Free-kick specialist Ives opened the scoring with his latest dead-ball expertise and Rory Donnelly’s header made it 2-0 and, though the Bannsiders pulled one back before the break, they were unable to find a way past a well-drilled Reds side, who toasted three hard-earned points at the finish.

October ended with supporters unsurprisingly nominating Ives – who bagged three eye-catching goals during the period – their Sean Graham Player of the Month as Cliftonville headed into November and another absorbing Solitude showdown with Glentoran…