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Reds hit back with a Bang

Cliftonville 4-2 Bangor

Joe Gormley emerged from the bench to bag a brace as Cliftonville avoided a County Antrim Shield upset with a second-half comeback against Bangor.

Trailing 2-0 just past the hour mark, the Reds netted four times in 14 minutes to book a semi-final berth with Gormley’s double coming after headers from Daniel Kearns and Aaron Donnelly had cancelled out the visitors’ lead.

Former Cliftonville Olympic defender Ryan Arthur nodded the Seasiders in front after just five minutes and the story of the night might have been somewhat less dramatic had Paul O’Neill’s chance for a quickfire leveller not been blocked on the line by Reece Neale.

Gerard McMullan then teed Ben Arthurs up for a chance he skewed wide before the hosts really started laying siege to the Bangor goal – but, crucially, without ever really testing goalkeeper Matthew Anderson.

He did have to get down to gather a Seanna Foster drive but wasn’t called upon to deal with three Ronan Doherty efforts – one the midfielder dragged wide, one he flashed just past the post and another that whistled over the top.

In between times, Michael Morgan – who, along with fellow Olympic graduate Sean Moore, was making his senior debut – was denied a goalscoring chance by a heavy touch and, though both youngsters showed signs of promise, they found time and space hard to come by in a crowded final third where the visitors’ well-drilled defence repeatedly denied them an opportuniy to flourish.

The half-time introductions of Ryan Curran and Jamie McDonagh would ultimately play a key role in swinging the tie but not before Bangor had taken a 2-0 lead.

After a superb last-gasp challenge from Foster foiled Arthurs, the striker was then kept out by Luke McNicholas, who also made an excellent flying save from a fierce Mark Cooling attempt.

From the resulting corner, however, McMullan was on hand to slam the Seasiders further in front to leave Cliftonville staring down the barrel of elimination.

The comeback would, however, start on 62 minutes when a wayward Donnelly strike was redirected into the net by an instinctive Kearns header – and, almost improbably, the Reds would be comfortably in control of the game less than a quarter of an hour later.

Donnelly made it 2-2 with a firm header from Jamie McDonagh’s corner and then, straight from the restart, Gormley – sprung from the bench in the immediate aftermath of Bangor’s second goal – raced through to make it 3-2.

He then added the fourth from a fantastic McDonagh delivery just to ensure there were no late nerves on a night that had already seen plenty frayed.

Cliftonville: McNicholas, Harney, C Curran, O’Neill, Foster, Donnelly, Doherty, Casey (Gormley, 58 mins), Morgan (R Curran, 46 mins), Kearns, Moore (McDonagh, 46 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, Lowe, Turner, Gallagher.