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Blue Monday

Cliftonville 1-2 Linfield

Cliftonville slipped to a disappointing defeat to Linfield in tonight’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter at Solitude.

Trailing early on, the Reds hit back through Joe Gormley but failed to kick on after the interval, with the Blues’ set-piece prowess ultimately making the difference.

The deadlock was broken when Andy Mitchell stroked home a penalty after Liam Bagnall had handled inside the area but it didn’t take long for the hosts to level – although there was a touch of controversy about the Gormley strike that restored parity.

With the offside flag raised against the striker as he darted in on goal, referee Raymond Crangle ruled that the ball had been played by Blues’ defender Ethan Boyle and, following muted celebrations when the ball hit the net, the officials’ declaration that the goal should stand sparked scenes of joy among a noisy home support.

An encouraging rally in the aftermath of the equaliser gave those fans reason for optimism after the interval but, unfortunately, Cliftonville were unable to find any sort of rhythm and fell behind again when Mark Stafford converted from a corner kick delivery.

It wasn’t until the closing minutes that the Reds began to exert any serious pressure again and, after having a couple of penalty appeals waved away, they saw Aaron Donnelly clip the post directly from a corner before the same player was unable to get a touch on a glorious injury-time delivery that found him unmarked inside the area.

The Reds got off to a reasonable start with Conor McMenamin directing a shot straight at goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson before Ruaidhrí Donnelly headed Conor McDermott’s corner delivery against the crossbar.

Within two minutes of that, however, the ball was in the net at the other end when Mitchell made no mistake from the spot after Boyle’s strike had crashed against Bagnall’s arm.
Cliftonville came close to levelling through Ryan Curran, who was just unable to get a touch on Gormley’s inviting cross, but the equaliser wouldn’t be long in arriving as Gormley played to the whistle despite Linfield’s offside appeals.

Early in the second period, Ruaidhrí Donnelly cleared a Jimmy Callacher header off the line but the Reds didn’t fully heed the warning over the visitors’ strengths from set plays and would fall behind again when Stafford finished things off after Boyle had flicked a corner kick into his path at the back post.

Richard Brush made a fine save to stop Shayne Lavery capitalising on a slip by Garry Breen but it was only in the final minutes that Cliftonville began to attack with any degree of intensity; Stafford doing well to stop Curran making the most of a cross from the right before a slew of handball appeals were dismissed by the officials.

Donnelly then struck the post with a corner before, in the final action of the contest, he was unable to connect with Ronan Doherty’s wonderful delivery into the box.

Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, R Curran, R Donnelly, Foster, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, A Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Ives, Harney, C Curran (Bagnall, 61 mins), Wilson, McCrudden (Gormley, 66 mins), Maguire (Foster, 83 mins).

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