Cliftonville and Linfield have to share the spoils

Cliftonville and Linfield had to make do with a share of the spoils in a pulsating encounter at Solitude.

By Steven Crawford
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 10:39 pm

Twice Jamie McDonagh put the hosts in front, but David Healy’s men hit back through Matthew Clarke and subsitute Ethan Devine to pick up a point in the end.

The home side were without boss Paddy McLaughlin in the dugout as he was serving a one-game suspension following his dismissal on Friday night.

The Blues, who came into the game on the back of an 11-game unbeaten run, paired Christy Manzinga in attack with on-loan striker Chris McKee, who opened his account for the club on Saturday.

Cliftonville’s Levi Ives clears the danger as Linfield’s Matthew Clarke and Michael Newberry close in. Mandatory Credit Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

It was a lively enough start at Solitude with the visitors having more of the ball but Cliftonville were looking dangerous on the counter attack.

The influential Jamie McDonagh was a key figure in the opening exchanges and he broke the deadlock on 15 minutes.

His initial shot was blocked as was Ryan Curran’s from the rebound, but McDonagh was alive to fire in the loose ball from the edge of the box.

The Blues responded with Jimmy Callacher having a header blocked before Stevie Fallon lobbed a shot over the bar.

The champions though were struggling to create any clear-cut chances as the first half ended with the Reds looking the more likely to score again.

The second half continued in a similar vein with Levi Ives teeing up McDonagh for another effort ten minutes after the restart, this time though Chris Johns did well to parry the curling effort away.

Cometh the hour though cometh the man as defender Matthew Clarke ghosted in at the back post to head home a superb cross from his fellow full back Michael Newberry to level things up.

Parity lasted only two minutes as the home side edged back in front again through that man McDonagh.

Kris Lowe won the ball back in midfield before threading an inch-perfect pass into the winger’s path and he lashed the ball into the far corner past Johns.

As the game moved into the last ten minutes Linfield went close to drawing level again.

Both Millar and Manzinga had efforts blocked, but the ball was recycled to Jamie Mulgrew on the edge of the box his cross picked out Clarke, but his header was superbly palmed away by Luke McNicholas in the home goal.

They did get level for a second time with five minutes to go as Clarke picked out substitute Ethan Devine, who placed a header past McNicholas.

Both sides kept pushing for a winner and deep into additional time the Blues fashioned an opportunity for Millar, but his shot was beaten away by McNicholas at his near post.

Cliftonville: McNicholas, McDermott, Ives, R. Curran, McDonagh, Lowe, Addis, Doherty, Turner, Gallagher, Kearns

Subs:McKenna, Harney, Curran, O’Neill, Donnelly, Gormley, Coates.

Linfield: Johns, Roscoe, Newberry, Callacher, Millar, Manzinga, M. Clarke, McClean, Fallon, Mulgrew, McKee.

Subs: Walsh, Stewart, Devine, Donnelly, A Clarke, Palmer, Carroll.