NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 4–2 Glenavon 

Joe Gormley came off the bench and struck twice as Cliftonville came from behind to leapfrog Linfield into second place with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Glenavon at Solitude on Saturday afternoon. 

James Doona gave the visitors a deserved lead after a dominant first half, but Cliftonville battled back and a quickfire double from Rory Hale and Sam Ashford turned the game around within 10 minutes of the restart. 

The Lurgan Blues showed their battling qualities and levelled through Matthew Snoddy with almost a quarter of an hour remaining. 

Step forward Gormley. The 34-year-old striker emerged from the bench to restore his side's lead from the spot and then kept his cool in injury time to ease any lingering nerves and move the Reds into second place in the table above Linfield ahead of Tuesday evening’s mouthwatering clash between the title chasers. 

Reds’ boss Jim Magilton felt the half-time break couldn’t have come any sooner to try and rejig things and felt the half time introduction of Luke Kenny for Eric Yoro helped bring a degree of stability. 

“Sometimes you have to applaud the opposition and they were fantastic,” he said. 

“They didn’t give us a breath. We were so off it, but they played really well and at times we found it very difficult. Sometimes you just need the half-time whistle to come, and we definitely needed it today. We rejigged things. We changed the shape of the team, which gave us more of a foothold. 

“Rory’s was a great goal and great work from Sam [Ashford]. It gave us the confidence to go on and then another great ball from Ronan for Sam. It just felt like a day when we were going to have to outscore them.

“We’d a back five that hadn’t played together. It’s very difficult situations for some. Eric [Yoro] will learn, it’s a great learning curve for him and a great learning experience. We just felt we had to make a change and the changes helped us obviously in the second half.”

Magilton was forced into one alteration from the team that defeated Coleraine last weekend. Suspension ruled out Odhran Casey and on-loan Bolton defender Eric Yoro was drafted in for his debut.  

The Lurgan Blues frustrated the hosts in the early stages and then took control of proceedings. 

Jamie Doran combined with Jack Malone whose dipping effort rocketed off the crossbar and seconds later Peter Campbell dragged an effort wide. 

Doran would nod a free-kick into the side-netting after James Doona sent the set-piece to the back post. 

The visitors pressure continued with Malone thumping wide from distance and David Odumosu claiming a Peter Campbell effort that was heading towards the top corner. 

On a rare attack forward, Stephen Mallon fizzed a low ball into the area that just evaded Shea Kearney’s late run. 

Midway through the half, Donna was played in and only a terrific block from Rory Hale killed the striker’s momentum and prevented a certain goal. 

However, he wouldn’t have long to wait before he punished the lacklustre Reds. On 28 minutes Stephen McDonnell’s side deservedly broke through. 

Len O’Sullivan had a quick interchange with Peter Campbell and his flick-on fell nicely for Donna to unleash a low shot that beat Odumosu at the near post to make it 1-0. 

Doona sent a further effort across the face of goal minutes later and on the stroke of half-time there was a double let-off. 

Aaron Prendergast hooked off target from a Jamie Doran cross and 60 seconds later, Doran watched as his shot was blocked by the foot of Odumosu as Doona’s goal was the difference at the interval. 

Cliftonville upped the ante after the break and were almost level when Rory Hale’s flicked header fell to brother Ronan at the back post, and he lifted his shot over the bar. Sam Ashford then tried a shot on the turn that was blocked by David Toure. 

The early pressure paid dividends in the 51st minute when Sam Ashford clipped the ball across, and Rory Hale’s looping header dropped over Gareth Deane and into the net to make It 1-1. 

Momentum was with the hosts and they completed the turnaround three minutes later. Rory Hale picked out brother Ronan to thread a through ball into the path of Sam Ashford and the Englishman coolly lifted the ball over Deane and into the net for his second goal in successive games. 

A dipping Ronan Hale shot scaled the bar and Hale then drove a fierce effort past the post minutes later. 

Rory Hale equalises

Rory Hale equalises

With little over a quarter of an hour remaining, Glenavon restored parity. Luke Kenny brought down substitute Isaac Baird and James Malone’s free-kick evaded Matthew Snoddy. Gavin Hodgins’ shot deflected off Luke Kenny and onto the post with Snoddy blasting home to make it 2-2. 

Ronan Hale lifted a free-kick over the bar as Cliftonville sought a decisive third, which would have edged them back in front. 

He would play a key role in earning a penalty on 79 minutes. Conor Kerr failed to cut out Rory Hale’s cross into the box and with Hale poised to capitalise, he was felled by David Toure and referee Tony Clarke pointed to the spot. 

Joe Gormley seized responsibility and made no mistake with a powerful blast that Gareth Deane failed to keep out.  

Glenavon pushed for a second equaliser in the final 10 minutes, but they were caught out in injury-time as Cliftonville sealed all three points. 

Jonny Addis caught the visitors napping and lifted a free-kick over the static defence for Gormley to run onto and dink over Deane for the clincher to make it 4-2 at the conclusion and ensure the Solitude side climbed into second place above Linfield.

CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Kearney, Addis, Yoro (Kenny 46’), Burns, Mallon (Gormley 73’), Doherty, Gordon (C Curran 65’), Rory Hale (Pepper 87’), Ashford, Ronan Hale. 

GLENAVON: Deane, Toure, Haughey (Kerr 46’), Malone, Campbell, Quinn, Prendergast (Hodgins 59’), Doran (Baird 59’), Garrett (Snoddy 59’), O’Sullivan, Doona (Clarke 73’). 

REFEREE: Tony Clarke