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Monday Monthly: October

As the countdown to the new Irish League season continues, produces the third chapter of 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 2019/20 campaign – with October’s action taking centre stage today.

Coming off the back of a disappointing defeat to Ballymena United the previous week, Cliftonville responded in convincing style with a confident performance against Glentoran at The Oval.

Despite the second-half dismissal of home striker Darren Murray, it looked for long stretches as though the Reds’ dominance would go unrewarded until Joe Gormley’s late header broke the deadlock – and even then, only a sensational injury-time save from Richard Brush preserved the points.

Gormley would net a further two goals when Cliftonville got the better of Bangor on League Cup Third Round duty a few days later; Ruaidhri Donnelly opening the scoring on a night when uncharacteristically sloppy defending twice saw the Seasiders threaten a comeback.

There was no such worry the following weekend, however, when Larne visited Solitude for a Premiership showdown which absolutely did not live up to the hype surrounding its build-up.

Indeed, Gormley’s penalty miss had looked set to be the standout moment from a thoroughlly turgid affair until Ryan Curran pounced to find the net with just four minutes left on the clock.

Though a fourth consecutive win appeared on the cards when goals from Ronan Doherty and Curran helped the Reds race into a 2-0 lead against Linfield at Windsor Park, a late home fightback saw this County Antrim Shield Quarter Final tie go all the way to a penalty shoot-out, where further Brush heroics booked the team’s place in the last-four.

A trip to Derry was next on the agenda as Cliftonville touched down at the Brandywell for a potentially tricky tie with Institute, only for a Conor McMenamin double to put the visitors firmly in control ahead of Gormley wrapping things up with a well-taken lob.

The team’s fine form looked under threat when Dungannon Swifts visited Solitude the following week but, following a goalless first-half, the Reds burst into life after the interval as Gormley netted three times in nine minutes to take his Club career tally to a remarkable 201 strikes in 301 appearances.

A deflected effort from Ruaidhri Donnelly added to Cliftonville’s advantage before McMenamin powered home the fifth in the closing minute.

A busy period of action concluded with another trip to Windsor where, despite Brush once again excelling when Linfield were awarded a penalty, a 1-0 reverse spelt the end of the Reds’ interest in the League Cup.

October ended with supporters nominating goalkeeper Brush – who also claimed September’s accolade – their Sean Graham Player of the Month as the Reds looked ahead to a testing Mourneview Park battle with Glenavon in November’s opening week.

Glentoran 0-1 Cliftonville

Cliftonville 3-2 Bangor
R Donnelly, Gormley [2]

Cliftonville 1-0 Larne
R Curran

Linfield 2-2 Cliftonville [3-4 on pens]
Doherty, R Curran

Institute 0-3 Cliftonville
McMenamin [2], Gormley

Cliftonville 5-0 Dungannon Swifts
Gormley [3], R Donnelly, McMenamin

Linfield 1-0 Cliftonville