Linfield's match winner Mark Stafford celebrates at the final whistle (©INPHO/Jonathan Porter)
Monday, 13 January 2020
Linfield returned to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership following victory over Cliftonville at Solitude live on Sky Sports.
The Blues moved into pole position on goal difference from Glentoran and the Reds, with Crusaders a point behind and Coleraine only slightly further adrift.
Cliftonville started brightly, crafting an opening chance when Conor McMenamin directed an effort straight at Linfield keeper Rohan Ferguson while, a little later, Conor McDermott sent over a corner which Rory Donnelly turned onto the top of the crossbar.
However Linfield broke the deadlock on 14 minutes after referee Raymond Crangle punished Liam Bagnall for handball from an Ethan Boyle shot and, from the subsequent spot-kick, Andrew Mitchell stepped up to beat Richard Brush.
The Reds had a great chance to get back on level terms after 26 minutes when Joe Gormley sent the ball across the face of goal with Ryan Curran just failing to get a touch at the back post.
But the home supporters only had to wait a matter of moments to cheer an equaliser thanks to Joe Gormley's dinked finish over Ferguson after Boyle had been caught in possession.
That was how it stayed at the break, but Linfield almost regained the advantage early in the second half when Jimmy Callacher's header was cleared off the line by Rory Donnelly.
The Blues move back in front, though, on 56 minutes with what proved to be the winner after substitute Mark Stafford broke free at the back post to volley home from Boyle's flick.
Shayne Lavery might have added a third just after the hour but was thwarted by Brush as he closed down on goal.
That would have put the game to bed but as it was Cliftonville pressed for the equaliser, and almost grabbed it with a couple of minutes remaining only for Stafford to clear a Ryan Curran touch off the line.
Then, in stoppage time, Aaron Donnelly sent a corner against the outside of the post while, with almost the last move of the game, he just missed making a connection to Ronan Doherty's cross when any touch would found the net.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, R. Curran, R. Donnelly, Foster, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, A. Donnelly subs Dunne (not used), Ives (not used), Harney (not used), C. Curran (replaced Bagnall 61), Wilson (not used), McCrudden (replaced Gormley 66), Maguire (replaced Foster 83)
Linfield: Ferguson, Haughey, Callacher, Cooper, Stewart, Lavery, Clarke, Fallon, Mulgrew, Boyle, Mitchell subs Moore (not used), Stafford (replaced Haughey 46), Waterworth (not used), Shevlin (not used), Millar (replaced Stewart 74), Kearns (not used), Hery (not used)
Referee: Raymond Crangle
|Conor McDermott||90 +3|