As the countdown to the new Irish League term continues, cliftonvillefc.net produces the fifth chapter of a weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of last season.
Every Monday, we’re taking a chronological look back on a month from the 2019/20 campaign – with December’s action taking centre stage today.
Having signed off from November with a home defeat to Glentoran, Cliftonville began the new month in similarly disappointing style when Linfield took full advantage of Liam Bagnall’s second-half dismissal at Windsor Park to pocket all three Danske Bank Premiership points courtesy of a 1-0 win.
The tragic loss of former Cliftonville Olympic title winner Jerry Thompson led to the postponement of the following week’s meeting with Carrick Rangers and it was not until four days before Christmas that the Reds returned to action in a nail-biting home tie against Coleraine.
A nip-and-tuck encounter looked set to be heading for a goalless draw until Conor McMenamin’s late intervention (main image) secured victory and kick-started a remarkable run of goalscoring form for the former Warrenpoint Town man.
Five days later, he helped end Cliftonville’s North Belfast Derby hoodoo with two goals in a memorable St Stephen’s Day Derby defeat of Crusaders at Seaview.
A decade on from the Club’s last Yuletide win on the Shore Road, David Cushley’s early opener appeared to sign-post some familiar festive heartache for the visitors only for McMenamin to pick his spot for a well-worked equaliser before sending the Red Army into raptures with a low drive into the bottom corner in the final 11 minutes.
He produced similar heroics just 48 hours later when he curled in an unstoppable winner against Larne at Inver Park, where a Jeff Hughes header had drawn the hosts level after Joe Gormley had broken the deadlock with just 17 seconds gone.
With Cliftonville top of the Premiership as 2019 drew to a close, December ended with supporters nominating McMenamin their Sean Graham Player of the Month as the Reds looked ahead to the New Year and a home date with Glenavon.
Linfield 1-0 Cliftonville
Cliftonville 1-0 Coleraine
Crusaders 1-2 Cliftonville
Larne 1-2 Cliftonville