NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 4–1 Portadown 

Joe Gormley broke Cliftonville’s hat-trick record with a treble in their 4-1 comeback win over Portadown at Solitude on Saturday afternoon. 

Trailing to a Greg Moorhouse header inside the opening quarter of an hour, Gormley hit a quickfire double before the break and sealed the match ball with 20 minutes remaining, before Ronan Hale wrapped up a convincing win for the Reds who move above Crusaders into third place in the table. 


Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin believes his side was made to work hard for their victory and picked out Sean Moore and Jamie McDonagh for praise. 

“The Ports were very good and started really well,” admits McLaughlin. 

“They definitely had a threat from set pieces, and they definitely had a threat through being direct. I’m not saying that they were a long-ball team, but when they got it forward into our box they were strong, physical and they were good at it. To say that we got there eventually wouldn’t be too far off it. 

“They started really well and took the lead and deservedly so. They were better than us for the first 10 or 15 minutes, but once we got to grips with it I think we were dominant then throughout. 

“Some of the football we played was excellent, in the second half I thought we were very good. Sean Moore was brilliant, McDonagh was brilliant in the first half and Sean Moore was brilliant in the second half. I don’t think anybody could argue with how the result went, but we had to work hard for it.”

Gormley turns the ball home at the back post

Gormley turns the ball home at the back post

McLaughlin made three changes to his side from their penalty shoot-out defeat in the Bet McLean Cup semi-final. 

Colin Coates, Sean Moore, and Joe Gormley all came into the starting 11 with Jonny Addis and Ryan Curran dropping to the bench. 

Cliftonville were almost ahead within the first four minutes when Kris Lowe hoisted a high ball forward that released Joe Gormley, he flashed a shot across the face of goal and Jethren Barr turned it behind at the expense of a corner. 

Barr smothered a Ronan Hale attempt after a one-two with Joe Gormley and at the other end, a crunching Chris Gallagher challenge saw Portadown with a promising opportunity from a free kick that was deflected over from a corner by Jenkins. 

From the resulting corner the Ports hit the front. Alberto Balde’s delivery fell to Paddy McNally and his flick-on was glanced towards goal by Greg Moorhouse and deflected to the net by Rory Hale to make it 1-0. 

A few minutes later the visitors had another free kick that Balde played short to Jenkins. This time his effort came through the wall and was gathered low down by Gartside. 

The hosts tried to up the ante as Ronan Hale slipped in Sean Moore, but the youngster's low drive was turned behind by Barr and the resulting corner came to nothing. 

On 24 minutes Kris Lowe went down in the area under pressure from Barney McKeown. A penalty wasn’t forthcoming though as referee Tim Marshall booked the left back for simulation. 

An equaliser was on the cards and Jamie McDonagh’s cross bobbled and dropped to Rory Hale whose shot was blocked on route to goal by McNally and it allowed Barr to collect. The Ports keeper then hung onto a driven shot by Ronan Hale before the pressure told on the mid-Ulster outfit. 

Kris Lowe won possession back with a perfectly timed tackle on Josh Archer and fed Chris Gallagher. The midfielder sent a low ball across the face of goal where Joe Gormley stabbed home for his ninth of the season. 

The turnaround was complete before the break and Gormley was made it a quickfire brace. Taking a pass from Rory Hale and assessing his options before sliding to the corner to take him into double figures and make it 2-1 at the break. 

Portadown began the second half on the front foot and thought they had drawn level when Jordan Jenkins flicked the ball over Nathan Gartside, but the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations. 

With 20 minutes to go Cliftonville doubled their advantage and Joe Gormley claimed his hat-trick. 

The 33-year-old controlled a through ball from substitute Jonny Addis and picked his spot low in the corner to claim the match ball and break the hat-trick record at the club in the process. 

Further chances went a begging in the aftermath as Sean Moore saw a curling effort kept out by Jethren Barr and Kris Lowe skewed the follow-up. Ronan Hale sent a half-volley past the post and Jonny Addis was also off-target after a burst forward. 

The fourth goal came deep into injury time as top scorer Ronan Hale latched onto a Levi Ives throw-in and finished to the net for his 13th of the season to wrap up a straight-forward afternoon and ensure Cliftonville returned to winning ways after a difficult start to December. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Turner, Moore (Ives 88’), Gallagher (Addis 62’), Doherty, Rory Hale (C Curran 90+2’), McDonagh, Ronan Hale, Gormley (Casey 90+2’). 

PORTADOWN: Barr, Upton (Russell 74’), Wilson, Almanzar, McKeown, Moorhouse (Teggart 79’), McNally, Archer (Mitchell 79’), Jordan Jenkins, Cakaj (Stedman 68’). 

REFEREE: Tim Marhsall