Less than 48 hours after the Cliftonville FC Awards brought the curtain down on the 2021/22 season, cliftonvillefc.net kicks off 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 campaign getting under way, we’ll take a chronological look back on a month from the the term just finished – with August’s perfect start taking centre stage today.
Cliftonville’s warm-up programme had actually started with a 2-0 victory over Newry City in the final week of July.
With the Solitude pitch still undergoing redevelopment, that game was played at the Cricky on the opposite side of the road, with the Reds’ homecoming reserved for a 3-2 defeat of Ards a few days later.
The team’s first away friendly saw Portstewart overcome 3-1 before three unanswered strikes were put past Institute at The Brandywell.
Derry City then claimed a 2-1 win at Solitude before Cliftonville completed their pre-season schedule with home victories over fellow Danske Bank Premiership sides Dungannon Swifts (1-0) and Portadown (3-0).
All of which meant there was a sense of quiet expectation heading into the first game of the new League term – but falling behind to Carrick Rangers early on certainly wasn’t in the script.
Nor, it must be said, was Jamie Harney (above) planting two bullet headers past goalkeeper Aaron Hogg to turn the game around before half-time, but that’s exactly what happened as the Reds held on to register a winning start.
A sterner test awaited when Coleraine visited Solitude a few days later but an explosive Cliftonville performance saw Gormley (above) open the scoring before a Stephen O’Donnell own goal made it 2-0, rendering the visitors’ late response a mere consolation as Paddy McLaughlin’s side banked successive 2-1 wins to begin the season.
Cliftonville 2-1 Newry City
Cliftonville 3-2 Ards
C Curran, Gormley, McDonagh
Portstewart 1-3 Cliftonville
Gormley, Addis, Hale
Institute 0-3 Cliftonville
Ives, McDonagh, R Curran
Cliftonville 1-2 Derry City
Cliftonville 1-0 Dungannon Swifts
Cliftonville 3-0 Portadown
R Curran, Hale, McCurry
Cliftonville 2-1 Carrick Rangers
Cliftonville 2-1 Coleraine