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Reds stop short

Ballymena United 2-1 Cliftonville

Cliftonville paid the price for failing to build on their first-half dominance as a Ballymena United comeback condemned the Reds to their first away loss of the domestic campaign.

Leading through Ruaidhri Donnelly’s first-time finish at the end of a slick passing sequence, the visitors – who had controlled the game up until that 24th minute strike – gradually began to invite more and more pressure, with the Sky Blues more than happy to take up the invitation after the break.

First they levelled when Andy McGrory tapped home at the far post before an unfortunate Conor McDermott own goal sealed the turnaround but, despite threatening through Conor McMenamin, McDermott and Joe Gormley, Cliftonville were never able to re-establish their early rhythm en route to what was an entirely avoidable defeat.

The first opportunity of the contest came when Gormley unleashed a fierce drive from a narrow angle and, while home keeper Ross Glendinning did well to repel the shot, he was unable to stop Donnelly netting via the vase of the post soon later.

Gormley was unfortunate not to connect with Chris Curran’s cross as the visitors sought to double their advantage, while a teasing delivery from McMenamin was likewise met with no takers in the middle.

Failing to build on their excellent first-half display, the Reds survived a couple of scares before Ballymena drew level through McGrory 12 minutes after the break.

That goal failed to ignite any sort of Cliftonville response and Ballymena were only too happy to assert greater control of proceedings before eventually edging in front when McGrory’s cross was flicked on by Ryan Mayse and found the net via a touch off McDermott.

Only then did the Reds spark back into life, with McMenamin and McDermott both going close to making it 2-2 ahead of Glendinning making a fine stop to keep Gormley at bay and preserve full points for his side.

Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Harney, C Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, A Donnelly, Gorman. Subs: Dunne, Breen, R. Curran (Bagnall, 74 mins), Garrett (Harney, 89 mins), Foster, Maguire (C Curran, 85 mins).