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Covering ground

A week since work began on replacing the pitch at Solitude, continues a mini-series reflecting on 11 years of 3G action.

Having commenced by reflecting on how vital a role the synthetic turf helped the Club play within the local community, today we examine the stats behind the surface.

The first game played on the pitch was a North Belfast Derby between Cliftonville Olympic and Crusaders Reserves on September 11, 2010 and, not long later, Joe Gormley was among the scorers when Crumlin Star began their tenancy at the venue.

While there is no definitive record of how many fixtures were contested by the Olympic, Strollers, Ladies, Corinthians or Academy teams – or indeed various international sides – the senior Men played a total of 338 games on the ‘plastic’, commencing with a 2-0 defeat to Coleraine on September 21, 2010 (above), when David Scullion earned the distinction of becoming the surface’s first Premiership goalscorer.

The first Cliftonville player to find the net, meanwhile, was George McMullan in a 4-2 win over Donegal Celtic on October 2, 2010 (above).

A total of 44 opponents were tackled across nine different competitions, with the most frequent visitors being Crusaders and Glentoran (27 matches each) and the first European game coming 10 years ago next week when The New Saints earned a 1-0 win in the second leg of a Europa League first qualifying round tie. Cliftonville’s first continental strike and triumph, meanwhile, came the following summer when Liam Boyce found the net against Swedish outfit Kalmar.

The installation of a synthetic surface has, naturally, reduced the amount of postponed matches at Solitude but there was one abandoned fixture at the ground during its residency – a January 2018 clash with Ballymena United that fell foul of dangerously high winds (below).

The last Ladies match on the outgoing pitch was the 4-2 defeat of Glentoran Women on May 19, when Kirsty McGuinness’ stunning free-kick proved the final goal of Women’s Premiership action and, though the closing senior contest was the memorable – if somewhat controversial – European Play-Off semi-final win against the Crues on June 1, the honour of the final goal goes to Linfield’s Andy Waterworth on May 29.

Pitch Battles
P209 W129 D31 L49 F427 A237

Irish Cup
P17 W12 D1 L4 F47 A16

League Cup
P24 W20 D2 L2 F84 A20

County Antrim Shield
P13 W11 D0 L2 F49 A14

European Play-Offs
P7 W5 D1 L1 F20 A12

Charity Shield
P1 W0 D1 L0 F0 A0
(also hosted 2015 game; Crusaders 0-1 Glentoran)

Setanta Sports Cup
P6 W4 D1 L1 F13 A7

Champions League
P2 W0 D1 L1 F0 A3

Europa League
P7 W3 D0 L4 F9 A6

P286 W184 D38 L64 F649 A315
(excluding 52 friendlies)

Milestone Moments
First game: Cliftonville Olympic v Crusaders Reserves (September 11, 2010)
First senior fixture: Cliftonville 0-2 Coleraine (September 21, 2010)
First win: Cliftonville 4-2 Donegal Celtic (October 2, 2010)
First goal: David Scullion (for Coleraine; September 21, 2010)
Last goal: Andy Waterworth (for Linfield; May 29, 2021)
First European game: Cliftonville 0-1 The New Saints (July 7, 2011)
First European win: Cliftonville 1-0 Kalmar (July 5, 2012)
One abandoned game: Cliftonville v Ballymena United (January 2, 2018)