It was unquestionably the most dramatic of the lot, but last night’s European Play-Off semi-final wasn’t the first North Belfast Derby to go to a penalty shootout.
Cliftonville’s Heritage Development Officer Paul Treanor notes that four prior encounters with the Crues have been settled from the spot, with the Reds suffering defeat just once.
The first such occasion was way back in May 1979 when the County Antrim Shield Final progressed to penalties following a scoreless draw between the sides at Seaview, where goalkeeper Brian Johnston produced some extra special heroics en route to a 3-1 success.
At the start of the 1995/96 season – and at the height of a particularly absurd run of spot-kick losses – the Reds were beaten 3-0 at Solitude after neither team had been able to score in 120 minutes of League Cup quarter-final action. Younger supporters may be shocked to learn that, so poor was the Club’s record from 12 yards in the 90s, many fans often left the ground before the shootout had even started, such was the certainty surrounding the inevitable defeat.
In October 2003, meanwhile, Paul Straney was the man of the moment after he made a string of saves to help the Reds to victory in a League Cup semi-final encounter at The Oval, with the keeper likewise taking centre stage when Larne were overcome on penalties in the Final.
Prior to last night, the most recent North Belfast Derby game to go all the way to a shootout was the 2014 League Cup Final when, following yet another 0-0 game, Cliftonville lifted the trophy courtesy of a 3-2 success.
North Belfast Derby Shootouts
May 14, 1979
County Antrim Shield Final: Crusaders 0-0 Cliftonville (1-3 on penalties)
August 19, 1995
League Cup Quarter-Final: Cliftonville 0-0 Crusaders (0-3 on penalties)
October 15, 2003
League Cup Semi-Final: Cliftonville 1-1 Crusaders (4-1 on penalties)
January 25, 2014
League Cup Final: Cliftonville 0-0 Crusaders (3-2 on penalties)
June 1, 2021
European Play-Off Semi-Final: Cliftonville 0-0 Crusaders (5-4 on penalties)