Champions Cliftonville dropped another two points last night when lowly Ballinamallard United almost outgunned them.
The home side struck the woodwork three times and took the lead on 52 minues with a Mark Stafford goal before they gifted the champions the equaliser when a Ballinamallard free kick on the half way line was played back to keeper McCusker, but it fell short for Jay Donnelly to slot home.
Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson said afterwards: “We hit the crossbar three times in the second half. In the first half they could have been a goal or two up in the first five minute for some reason. They came at us heavy, but we got ourselves into the game and had a good shape about ourselves. We worked extremely hard and got a good goal.
“Then we shot ourselves in the foot. It was a terrible incident for their goal, but before the game if someone had said take a point then I certainly would, but we’re absolutely gutted we didn’t get three points.
“We’re disappointed about not getting the three points but it shows what we can do.We need to be more consistent. . It’s a fantastic point and we have to push on from here.”
Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin said “We did well in the fist half, but they scored and we had to go chasing the game. No disrespect to Ballinamallard, but we need to be winning in places like this if we have any aspirations of winning the title and we haven’t done that. It’s not a good night.
“We’ve dropped too many points. It’s been a bad December for us, so we’ll just go back to basics and take one game at a time.
“The approach play is good, but we’re making the wrong choices. We’re trying to be too deliberate, but that comes when you are chasing results. No pressure on us now. We’ll take every game as it comes and see where it takes us at the end of the season,” said Tommy.
“There are plenty of twists and turns and plenty of football to be played.We’ll be looking for a better January than we’ve had December.
Cliftonville had a great opportunity in the opening minute when McDaid backheeled across the home side’s goal.. McDaid was denied again with a stinging shot saved by keeper McCusker.
Ballinamallard’s first real chance came on 37 minutes when Lafferty and Campbell combined to have an effort cleared off the line, while McCusker again dealt well with Curran’s rasping drive.
The home side took the lead seven minutes into the second half when Cliftonville failed to clear and corner. The ball fell to James McKenna, whose left foot strike came back off the crossbar into the path of Stafford to head home.
McDaid had a glorious opportunity to level when McCusker failed to gather a corner, but the ball was headed straight into the keeper’s hands. Gormley too came close on 78 minutes shooting just wide.
Then came the gift goal. Ballinamallard won a free kick on the half way line and when they played it short, Currie, under pressure tried to play it back to keeper McCusker, but Donnelly was onto the short ball and nicked in front of the home keeper to score the softest of goals.
Lafferty and Campbell both struck the crossbar before the end as both sides went all out for the winner.
McCusker, Dykes, Stafford, Martin, Lafferty, McCartney (Courtney82), Currie, McKenna, Campbell, Crilly (Beacom 45), McLoughlin
Murphy, Beacom, Carters, Smith, Courtney
Devlin, McGovern, Scannell, Curran (M. Donnelly 68), McMullan (Mulvenna 81), McDaid (J. Donnelly 68), Smyth, Catney, Winchester, Gormley, Cosgrove
Flynn, M. Donnelly, Murray, J. Donnelly, Mulvenna