NIFL Premiership

Dungannon Swifts 3–1 Cliftonville 

CLIFTONVILLE’S title hopes are left in tatters after suffering a second successive league defeat at the hands of Dungannon Swifts, losing 3-1 at Stangmore Park on Saturday afternoon.  

Former midfielder Thomas Maguire headed the hosts ahead in the opening half, but captain Chris Curran levelled just before the hour mark. 

The Swifts regained the lead late on through substitute Ben Gallagher and then another former Red, James Knowles, secured Dungannon’s win in injury time. 

Defeat sees the Solitude side fall six points behind leaders Larne who have a game in hand and boss Jim Magilton was hugely disappointed with the result. 

“It was a disappointing day to say the least,” he reflected. 

“In the end, Dungannon were deserved winners. We gave them a start. Defensively, this season we’ve been so good and now we’re shipping goals and that’s not good. Our motivation around not conceding goals is keeping the ball. Again, we gave the ball away cheaply and that resulted in the second goal. 

“It is hugely disappointing afternoon for us after, especially after another disappointing night on Tuesday. We were expecting a kick back from that. 

“The goal woke us up and we controlled things and created decent chances without real clear-cut chances. We were gifted a goal and we just didn’t go again. 

“We got into decent areas without really capitalising on it and in the end, we got picked off.”

Magilton made five changes from Tuesday evening’s defeat to Linfield. There were starts from Conor Pepper, Sean Stewart, Chris Curran, Joe Gormley and a first start since November for Kris Lowe after long-term injury. 

The hosts began on the front foot when Thomas Maguire clipped in a cross that David Odumosu partially cleared, and Gael Bigirimana hooked over. 

Leo Alves then provided a pinpoint cross that Maguire headed goalward and it was matched by a terrific save from Odumosu at the expense of a corner. 

The duo that almost combined linked up again and this time Maguire was able to steer his header low into the bottom corner to give the Swifts a deserved lead. 

There were further opportunities thereafter, Steven Scott skewed a low shot wide and he then teed up Alves for a shot that flashed wide of the post. 

It took just over a quarter of an hour for Cliftonville to spark into life. Ronan Hale picked up the ball on the edge of the box, made his way towards goal and saw his curling shot deflected behind for a corner off Dean Curry. The resulting corner was only half cleared and Paddy Burns could only volley over the bar. 

Joe Gormley then flicked a low effort past the post from Sean Stewart’s low cross and on the half hour mark Odhran Casey rifled wide after Ronan Hale’s corner wasn’t fully cleared. 

Debutant Swifts’ ’keeper Alex Henderson held onto a Joe Gormley snapshot and then held on as Ronan Hale tried his luck a few minutes later. 

The chances were piling up and Joe Gormley was unable to round Henderson and instead found Chris Curran, the captain cut the ball back and Gael Bigirimana had to divert the danger behind at the expense of a corner. 

Despite having plenty of defending to do in the wake of their opener, the Swifts almost doubled their lead on the 38th minute. 

Leo Alves clipped in a free kick and Cahal McGinty headed into the chest of the onrushing Odumosu, and they had a further corner, which they were unable to take advantage of. 

On the stroke of half time, Chris Curran found the run of Sean Stewart and his cutback was cleared to the edge of the box where Ronan Doherty had a shot charged down as Maguire’s goal proved the difference at the interval. 

Cliftonville should have been back on terms early in the second half when Ronan Doherty slipped in Joe Gormley, but he curled a shot around the post and wide. 

Jim Magilton made a treble change 10 minutes into the half in order to try and inject more urgency. 

Within three minutes they pulled level. Goalkeeper Henderson dropped the ball to play out Chris Hegarty who wasn’t anticipating his goalkeeper’s intentions. Chris Curran closed down the Swifts shot-stopper, robbed him and rolled the ball into the empty net to make it 1-1. 

Kris Lowe and Kealan Dillon in action

Kris Lowe and Kealan Dillon in action

The Reds almost hit the front moments later when Joe Gormley did enough to keep the ball in play for Stephen Mallon and his tight angled shot drifted past the post and behind. 

Dungannon upped the ante in the final 20 minutes with Andrew Mitchell lashing wide of the post. Leo Alves then dropped in a free-kick which Adam Glenny headed over the bar. 

The Swifts then regained the lead on the 83rd minute. Substitutes James Knowles and Ben Gallagher combined for the later to thump home and make it 2-1. 

Renowned for their late shows on the road, this one was beyond Cliftonville on this occasion as Dungannon wrapped up all three points in added time. 

A swift counterattack saw Ben Gallagher with the chance to wrap things up, Kris Lowe headed off the line and James Knowles was on hand to slam home against his former club and earn his side a 3-1 win at the conclusion. 

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Henderson, Curry, Hegarty, Dillon, Scott, Glenny, Maguire (Knowles 72’), Alves, Mitchell (Gallagher 72’), Bigirimana. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Pepper (Kearney 55’), Addis, Casey, Burns (Mallon 56’), Stewart, Doherty (Gordon 55’), C Curran (Corrigan 89’), Lowe, Ronan Hale, Gormley (Ashford 81’). 

REFEREE: Christopher Morrison