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Saturday Stepback: 1998

As the 2019/20 season gears up for a welcome return, we are continuing to fill the void left by Cliftonville-free Saturdays with the latest chapter of our weekly series transporting us back to a game played on this day in yesteryear.

Thanks to the help of the Club’s Heritage Development Officer, Paul Treanor, every Saturday until we’re able to welcome our fans back, will revisit a match from the past via the medium of contemporary reports – with today’s spotlight falling on a friendly with Peterborough United in 1998.

Staged as part of the Reds’ preparations for the defence of their Irish League title, the visitors included future Cliftonville player and boss Gerard Lyttle in their line-up for the occasion.

Posh get rude awakening

Peterborough United discovered exactly why Cliftonville are Irish League Champions, the Belfast Reds making it third time unlucky for the Nationwide League Third Division team on the last leg of their three-match tour of the North.

Last Monday, Peterborough defeated another Premier League side, Crusaders, 4-0. They followed that victory with a 3-0 rout over First Division team Ards.

At Solitude, the visitors must have fancied their chances of completing a hat-trick of wins as they controlled the first-half. But a resolute home defence kept them at bay and never looked seriously troubled with Cliftonville goalkeeper Michael Ingham standing in for English-based No.1 Paul Reece.

The Reds gradually grew in confidence in the second-half and their main dangerman, Tim McCann, grabbed the only goal with a little over 15 minutes remaining.

That smashing goal was no more than he and his team deserved. Six minutes after the break, his superb header was well gathered by Peterborough keeper Mark Tyler and then he had a fine 63rd minute goal ruled out, play brought back for a Cliftonville free outside the box after a foul by Ashley Neal, son of former Liverpool star Phil.

But there was no doubt about his cracking 73rd minute strike, McCann directing a magnificent half-volley from outside the penalty area to the top corner of the net.

Both sides used all their substitutes and will have learned much from the exercise in what was a disappointing defeat maybe, but still a successful trip to the North for the go-ahead English club.

Cliftonville: Ingham, Mulvenna, Flynn, Tabb, Davey, Sliney, T McCann, Collins, Tolan, McMahon, McCourt. Subs: Kerr, Small, McDonagh, McCallion, Donnelly, M McCann.

Peterborough: Taylor, Lyttle, McMenamin, Shearer, Bodley, Neal, Farrell, Davis, Carruthers, DeSouza, Houghton. Subs: Quinn, Castle, Jellyman, Gill, Green, Gniazoli.

Referee: Colin Prentice (Belfast)