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Monday Monthly: April

With just three days until Cliftonville return to Europa League action, continues a weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of the 2018/19 season.

Every Monday, we’re taking a chronological look back on a new month from the campaign – with April taking centre stage today.

Though it was by no means guaranteed, the general consensus was that the Reds would face Coleraine in the end-of-term Play-Offs, which is why the April 6 encounter between the sides proved so crucial – with Cliftonville’s 4-2 win increasing the likelihood of home advantage when the tie came around.

Things got off to a poor start at Solitude, where Jamie McGonigle put the Bannsiders in front and, though Rory Donnelly would soon level matters, the visitors retook the lead courtesy of James McLaughlin.

Not for the final time, Coleraine found themselves on the wrong end of a stirring Reds comeback as Ryan Curran and Jamie Harney netted to turn things round before half-time ahead of Curran’s late penalty sealing the points.

A week later, a deflected Curran effort put Cliftonville in front against Ballymena United, who earned a point through Johnny McMurray ahead of the Reds emerging victorious from the last North Belfast Derby of the season.

Once again, Curran was centre of attention with an ice-cool penalty breaking the deadlock against Crusaders before a superbly taken solo strike wrapped up an encouraging 2-0 win.

Those would, however, prove to be the Reds’ final points of the Danske Bank Premiership campaign, with the team falling to heavy defeats in their remaining two outings.

With an eye on the upcoming Play-Offs, boss Paddy McLaughlin made a raft of changes to the side for a 5-1 hammering by Linfield at Windsor Park – where Conor McMenamin began his late-season goal spree – before Glenavon romped to a 4-0 success at Mourneview Park a few days later as Cliftonville signed off from League duty on low notes but with the promise of better to come when they renewed hostilities with Coleraine in the race for Europe.

March duly ended with supporters nominating Curran – who scored five goals in as many appearances – their Sean Graham Player of the Month as the Reds headed into May and a final crack at Europa League qualification…

April 2019
Cliftonville 4-2 Coleraine
R Donnelly, R Curran [2], Harney

Cliftonville 1-1 Ballymena United
R Curran

Cliftonville 2-0 Crusaders
R Curran [2]

Linfield 5-1 Cliftonville

Glenavon 4-0 Cliftonville