Cliftonville 1-2 Larne
For the second game in a row, Cliftonville fell to defeat having had two penalties awarded against them, with Larne the beneficiaries at Solitude this evening.
As was the case against Coleraine on Saturday, at least one of the calls was hugely controversial but, unlike at the weekend, the Reds had drawn level in between times; Barry Coffey’s stunning free-kick restoring parity for all of two minutes.
Cliftonville also felt they should have had a spot-kick of their own deep into injury-time but, as per last time out, the referee wasn’t interested in any appeals.
The visitors had threatened early on when John Herron fizzed a free-kick just wide ahead of Josh Robinson nodding straight into Declan Dunne’s arms.
Jeff Hughes then headed off target before Robinson’s back-post intervention prevented Ryan O’Reilly from getting on the end of Aaron Donnelly’s 34th minute corner delivery.
The deadlock was broken just two minutes before the break, with referee Shane Andrews pointing to the penalty spot after the ball had struck Ryan Curran’s hand – although Cliftonville were adamant that the striker was himself being fouled in the process. Nevertheless, substitute Davy McDaid stepped up to convert.
Dunne did well to keep hold of a tricky Dylan Mottley-Henry effort early in the second period before the Reds equalised in style. Awarded a free-kick 25 yards out after Daire O’Connor had been felled, Coffey executed an inch-perfect strike in off the upright.
Within two minutes, however, Larne were back in front; Mottley-Henry needed no second invitation to take a tumble under the close attentions of Daniel Kearns and McDaid made no mistake from 12 yards.
Mottley-Henry then went close to making it 3-1 only for Dunne to make an excellent stop diving to his left, while home sub Paul O’Neill almost made it 2-2 when he beat goalkeeper Conor Mitchell in a race to the ball only for Albert Watson to avert the danger.
The visitors should have wrapped things up on 89 minutes when Seanna Foster’s undercooked backpass was seized upon by Martin Donnelly, who teed Lee Lynch up for what looked like a simple finish only for Rory Hale to make an excellent saving tackle.
Hale’s surging injury-time run ended with him calling Mitchell into action and, when the ball fell for Aaron Donnelly, his rebound struck Watson but, with referee Andrews dismissing handball claims, Larne held on to take the points.
Cliftonville: Dunne, O’Reilly, O’Connor, R Curran, McCrudden (O’Neill, 78 mins), Foster, Donnelly, Hale, Lowe, Kearns (Doherty, 66 mins), Coffey. Unused subs: D Breen, Ives, Harney, Casey.