With less than a fortnight until Cliftonville’s first pre-season friendly of the 2021/22 campaign, cliftonvillefc.net continues a new weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of last term.
Every Monday between now and the new Danske Bank Premiership programme kicking off, we’re taking a chronological look back on a month from 2020/21 – with a wretched November in the spotlight today.
Despite producing an energetic performance that saw a host of chances created, the Reds’ grip on the County Antrim Shield was relinquished when Glentoran struck a late winner in the sides’ semi-final clash at Solitude.
Cliftonville would, however, return to winning ways when Warrenpoint Town visited north Belfast a few days later.
Leading through Thomas Maguire (above) – a finish which came after the referee had played an excellent advantage following goalkeeper Gabriel Sava’s foul on Michael McCrudden – the hosts doubled their lead when Ryan Curran found the bottom corner ahead of Joe Gormley’s volley sealing the points.
That, though, would prove the final highlight of a testing spell that saw the team fall to three consecutive Premiership defeats.
First, Dungannon Swifts pocketed all three points from a Stangmore Park encounter that saw a sizzling Garry Breen free-kick cancel out Douglas Wilson’s opener only for the home side to secure victory with a late penalty.
Having lost a number of key personnel to injury during that tie, it was a patched-up Cliftonville team that travelled to Larne the following weekend and their fortunes were perhaps summed up when Aaron Donnelly’s long-awaited return to fitness saw him hobble off shortly after his introduction from the bench. The concession of a 95th minute winning goal served only to rub salt into the wound.
Things would get worse before they would improve, with Ballymena United inflicting the Reds’ biggest loss of the season when they hit four unanswered goals in a curious game at Solitude. Though there could be no doubting the Sky Blues’ authority on the night, three of their strikes owed to timely deflections or favourable bounces as they ended their own dip in form with a well deserved triumph.
Cliftonville would react positively to that setback, however, and delivered a five-star display when Portadown came calling in the month’s final outing.
Played behind closed doors following the reintroduction of Covid-enforced restrictions, the contest saw Michael McCrudden (above) rattle in a hat-trick ahead of Daire O’Connor’s double completing the occasion.
November concluded with supporters nominating Ryan O’Reilly as the Sean Graham Player of the Month as Cliftonville looked ahead to beginning December at Windsor Park…
Cliftonville 0-1 Glentoran
Cliftonville 3-0 Warrenpoint Town
Maguire, R Curran, Gormley
Dungannon Swifts 2-1 Cliftonville
Larne 1-0 Cliftonville
Cliftonville 0-4 Ballymena United
Cliftonville 5-0 Portadown
McCrudden , O’Connor