While behind-closed-doors fixtures have become a familiar experience for the Red Army throughout the 2020/21 season, it’s understood that Cliftonville have only ever ‘officially’ contested 13 such games – more than half of which have been staged in the last six months.
Though such occasions are by their very nature difficult to keep a complete record of, contemporary reports suggest the first took place at Solitude back on August 19, 1998 when the Reds hosted Malta’s national team on a night that saw the Mediterranean visitors claim a 3-0 win over Marty Quinn’s Premier League Champions.
A further 16 years would pass until the next instance when, just three days after suffering a 1-0 loss to The New Saints on home soil, Cliftonville suffered a similar fate thanks to Ronan Scannell’s own goal earning victory for the Welsh side.
A 2018 behind-closed-doors tie, meanwhile, saw the Reds travel to Celtic’s Lennoxtown training complex for a meeting with a Hoops’ Development XI in the summer of 2018. After taking the lead through Ryan Curran, the visitors found themselves behind thanks to the concession of goals either side of half-time only for Conor McDonald to complete the scoring in a 2-2 draw.
Football’s coronavirus-enforced shutdown understandably saw further additions to that list, with Cliftonville slipping to defeats in fitness-building exercises against SSE Airtricity Premier Division sides Shamrock Rovers and Finn Harps in July, while a younger Reds XI was overcome by Crumlin United ahead of their senior counterparts suffering penalty shootout heartache in their Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup semi-final encounter with Glentoran – which was the Club’s first ever competitive behind-closed-doors fixture.
Preparations for the 2020/21 season, meanwhile, included friendly wins over Shankill United and Ards at Solitude, where Portadown were overcome 5-0 in a late November Danske Bank Premiership clash.
After losing to Linfield the following week, Cliftonville began the New Year with a win at Dungannon Swifts before the recent North Belfast Derby draw with Crusaders rounded off an admittedly incomplete review of the Club’s behind-closed-doors commitments.
Potted History of Behind Closed Doors Fixtures
August 19, 1998
Cliftonville 0-3 Malta
July 8, 2014
Cliftonville 0-1 The New Saints
July 7, 2018
Celtic XI 2-2 Cliftonville
July 11, 2010
Shamrock Rovers 3-0 Cliftonville
July 18, 2020
Finn Harps 1-0 Cliftonville
Crumlin United 2-1 Cliftonville XI
July 27, 2020
Cliftonville 1-1 Glentoran [6-7 on penalties]
September 12, 2020
Cliftonville 4-1 Shankill United
September 30, 2020
Cliftonville 3-1 Ards
November 28, 2020
Cliftonville 5-0 Portadown
December 5, 2020
Linfield 2-0 Cliftonville
January 2, 2021
Dungannon Swifts 1-2 Cliftonville
January 9, 2021
Cliftonville 2-2 Crusaders