Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Andrew Mitchell 13' (Pen), Mark Stafford 55'
Cliftonville Scorer :
Joe Gormley 27'
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Cliftonville Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Rohan Ferguson (GK), Ethan Boyle, Mark Haughey (Mark Stafford 45’), Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Stephen Fallon, Jamie Mulgrew ©, Andrew Mitchell, Joel Cooper, Jordan Stewart (Kirk Millar 73’), Shayne Lavery
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Andy Waterworth, Bastien Hery, Daniel Kearns, Matthew Shevlin
Cliftonville Team :
Richard Brush (GK), Seanna Foster (Thomas Maguire 83'), Garry Breen, Conor McDermott, Aaron Donnelly, Ryan Curran, Ronan Doherty, Liam Bagnall (Chris Curran 60'), Conor McMenamin, Joe Gormley (Michael McCrudden 66'), Rory Donnelly
Cliftonville Subs not used :
Declan Dunne, Levi Ives, Jamie Harney, Ronan Wilson
After last week’s shock defeat to Queens, Linfield bounced back brilliantly with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cliftonville at Solitude which sent David Healy’s men back to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Cliftonville went close to an early goal when striker Rory Donnelly connected well with a header at a corner but his effort struck the crossbar.
Linfield were awarded a penalty on 13 minutes when new signing Ethan Boyle saw his shot blocked by the arm of Liam Bagnall after Cliftonville failed to clear a corner. Referee Raymond Crangle showed no hesitancy in pointing to the spot and up stepped the recalled Andrew Mitchell to calmly slot the ball into the bottom left corner, sending goalkeeper Richard Brush the other direction to put Linfield into an early lead.
Cliftonville almost levelled on 25 minutes when a well-worked move set Joe Gormley away down the right and his cross was just missed by the outstretched Rory Donnelly in the middle.
The Reds did draw level two minutes later, however, and in very controversial circumstances. Linfield full back Ethan Boyle was caught in possession as Joe Gormley was sent through on goal but before he put the ball in the net, the linesman raised his flag for offside. However, after a conversation between referee and linesman, it was decided that the goal would stand, with the officials coming to the conclusion that the through ball to Gormley came off Boyle last, which would have played Gormley onside – if there was a touch. The Linfield players were in disbelief as they’d stopped playing after seeing the linesman’s flag raised.
Half Time: Cliftonville 1 –1 Linfield
Mark Stafford was introduced by David Healy at the break in place of the injured Mark Haughey, and Irvinestown native Stafford made his mark ten minutes later. A corner was whipped in by Andrew Mitchell and nodded on at the near post by Ethan Boyle and stabbed in by the onrushing Stafford in the middle.
It was almost 3-1 on 63 minutes when Garry Breen slipped when trying to make a clearance which allowed Shayne Lavery through on goal. The striker was quickly met by the onrushing Richard Brush who made a good save to deny Lavery’s attempted lob.
Cliftonville substitute Michael McCrudden – making his debut after a recent transfer from Derry City – put in a dangerous cross into the mixer late on, but in typical Mark Stafford fashion, the big defender threw himself in the way to make a crucial block.
The four added minutes were utterly frantic. Raymond Crangle wasn’t too popular with the home support as we waved away two big penalty appeals, both appeals for handball. The final action saw Conor McMenamin put in a pinpoint cross into the middle for Aaron Donnelly who failed to make a contact through misjudging the cross, a guilt edged chance missed at the death.
Linfield dug deep and with superb defensive organisation they were able to hang on for a crucial three points. On the whole, it was a more comfortable win than the scoreline suggests, with Rohan Ferguson hardly having a save to make.
Full Time: Cliftonville 1 – 2 Linfield