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Reds left in a Jam

Cliftonville 2-2 Linfield

Jamie McDonagh rifled home two excellent goals but it wasn’t enough for Cliftonville to earn victory as Linfield twice hit back at Solitude this evening.

The Reds were rewarded for a bright start when McDonagh rifled through a crowded penalty area to break the deadlock on 15 minutes only for Matthew Clarke to nod the Blues level just past the hour.

McDonagh’s first-time finish restored the hosts’ lead soon after but Linfield hit back through Ethan Devine late on to rescue a point from yet another absorbing Danske Bank Premiership battle at Solitude.

The night started with referee Tony Clarke waving away a tame penalty appeal from visiting forward Chris McKee, who had thrown himself to the floor with Luke Turner in close proximity, before a surging run forward from McDonagh ended with him sending a shot wide of the mark.

He would have no such problems soon later, though, when he assumed possession following a bout of pinball inside the box and struck a pinpoint drive beyond the dive of goalkeeper Chris Johns.

Cliftonville had a decent shout for a penalty of their own in the opening exchanges of the second-half when Stephen Fallon handled as the Blues attempted to deal with a troublesome Levi Ives corner, while McDonagh went close to curling in a second only to be denied by a fingertip save from Johns.

Within five minutes, Linfield had drawn level courtesy of a Matthew Clarke header from Michael Newberrt’s cross, but the Reds hit straight back again when Kris Lowe threaded McDonagh through and his first-time strike found the bottom corner.

Cliftonville put their visitors under a long spell of pressure thereafter but were unable to find the third goal that might have provided some security and were grateful to Chris Gallagher for a vital block to stop Kirk Millar from making it 2-2.

From the resulting corner, the ball was eventually recycled into the direction of Clarke, whose goalbound header was magnificently clawed out by Luke McNicholas.

The Blues’ persistence would pay off in the end, however, when Clarke’s delivery was glanced home by Ethan Devine with just five minutes remaining, while McNicholas’ injury-time stop from Clarke ensured Cliftonville would emerge with something to show for their considerable efforts over the course of the game.

Cliftonville: McNicholas, McDermott (C Curran, 46 mins), Ives, R Curran, McDonagh, Lowe, Addis, Doherty (Donnelly, 77 mins), Turner, Gallagher (Gormley, 90 mins), Kearns (O’Neill, 65 mins). Unused subs: McKenna, Harney, Coates.