Cliftonville 1-1 Glenavon
Despite Ryan Curran blasting in an 89th minute equaliser against Glenavon at Solitude this afternoon, Cliftonville emerged deflated from a contest where the team’s injury jinx once again stopped them in their tracks.
The enforced half-time withdrawals of Chris Curran and Garry Breen led to a change in shape and a drop in momentum after an opening 45 minutes in which the Reds had often appeared on the cusp of a breakthrough.
After falling behind to a Danny Purkis penalty, Cliftonville were frustrated to see a couple of their own spot-kick appeals waved away, while a blatant foul by visiting keeper Craig Hyland went unpunished before Conor McMenamin saw a late leveller controversially ruled out for offside.
The hosts were first to threaten when Rory Hale stung Hyland’s palms ahead of Ronan Doherty sending an effort off target.
Glenavon’s first threat came on 13 minutes when Conor McCloskey struck wide while, at the other end, Hyland punched a Chris Curran cross away ahead of Michael McCrudden blazing over the top.
Peter Campbell looked set to give the Lurgan Blues a 40th minute lead with a low drive that brought a superb stop out of Aaron McCarey and, though Daire O’Connor had twice gone close to making the most of runs in behind the visiting defence, the game remained goalless at the interval.
Cliftonville re-emerged with McMenamin and debutant Kris Lowe stripped out in place of Chris Curran and Breen, with the change of formation appearing to offer Glenavon some signs of encouragement and they really should have gone in front when Matthew Fitzpatrick steered wide with just McCarey to beat.
Hale skewed an effort inches over after a good cutback by O’Connor and, just three minutes later, the Reds were made to pay when Jamie Harney’s foul on Purkis led to a penalty which the striker picked himself up to convert.
Within minutes, Andrew Doyle’s foul on Doherty should have seen the Reds awarded a spot-kick only for referee Tim Marshall to wave play on, just as he did when Doherty was cleaned out by Hyland on 79 minutes.
Cliftonville’s frustrations were then heightened when Thomas Maguire’s low cross was dispatched by McMenamin, only for the linesman to raise an offside flag against Ryan Curran, who had allowed the shot to roll through his legs en route to the net.
To their credit, the Reds continued to pour forward and saw another penalty shout dismissed when Hale appeared to be tripped by Robert Garrett but their persistence paid off with just a minute left on the clock when Ryan Curran confidently swept into the top corner with a smart first-time strike in a busy goalmouth.
The potential for a winner on the cards, Cliftonville went in search of all three points but their only real threat in four additional minutes was a wildly off target attempt from McMenamin, for whom the ball had sat up invitingly on the edge of the box.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Breen (McMenamin, 46 mins), Harney, C Curran (Lowe, 46 mins), O’Connor, R Curran, McCrudden (Maguire, 70 mins), Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Hale. Unused subs: Dunne, Casey, O’Brien, Teggart.