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On the level

Cliftonville 0-0 Linfield

There was nothing to separate Cliftonville and Linfield as the sides played out a goalless draw in this evening’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter at Solitude.

Both teams saw big chances dealt with by the opposition goalkeepers, with Luke McNicholas making a point-blank stop to keep Christy Manzinga at bay the first-half ahead of Chris Johns’ outstretched foot denying Joe Gormley a goal as the Reds cranked up the pressure after the break.

With both sides testing the water in the opening exchanges, the first effort on goal came from the hosts but Cricky Gallagher was unable to steer is low drive on target.

Gormley then drew a straightforward save from Johns with a strike from distance before Linfield carved out the contest’s first gilt-edged chance when Kirk Millar and Chris McKee combined to thread Manzinga through but McNicholas got his angles right to deny the Frenchman.

The Reds were less than impressed when referee Andrew Davey allowed play to continue when Gormley was tripped by Jimmy Callacher as he attempted to seize upon Conor McDermott’s ball over the top before the referee flashed a yellow card in the direction of Conor Pepper for a late and needless studs-up challenge as McNicholas gathered the ball on the ground.

McKee sliced a shot wide and Gormley stung Johns’ palms before Ryan Curran’s follow-up was blocked ahead of the first-half ending with Curran nodding just wide from Gormley’s dinked cross.

Cliftonville maintained their momentum after the interval and, after an off-balance Gormley had sent a half-volley over the top, the striker was frustrated again when he latched onto Curran’s clever flick only for Johns’ outstretched boot to divert the ball behind.

From the resulting delivery, Jonny Addis was unable to direct his back-post header the right side of the crossbar in what would prove the Reds’ last real sight on goal.

Linfield began to slowly but surely work their way back into proceedings and Manzinga was out of luck again when he raced onto Jordan Stewart’s throughball but blasted his shot across the face of goal and out for a throw-in on the far side.

McNicholas then saved from Stewart and Jamie Mulgrew struck wide as the Blues went in search of yet another late winner – and, just after Kris Lowe’s cross had evaded Gormley at the other end, they had a glorious opportunity to bank full points when Stewart stepped up to take a free-kick deep into injury-time but sent his fierce strike wide of the post.

Cliftonville: McNicholas, McDermott (Lowe, 89 mins), Ives, R Curran, O’Neill (C Curran, 83 mins), Addis, Gormley, Turner, Gallagher, Coates, Kearns (Doherty, 78 mins). Unused subs: McKenna, Harney, Hale, Donnelly.