NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 1–1 Loughgall

Cliftonville were unable to make it four league wins on the spin as newly promoted Loughgall continued their solid start on the return to the top flight with a 1-1 draw at Solitude on Saturday afternoon. 

Jonny Addis had headed the hosts into an early lead but was caught out at the other end by Jamie Rea and on-loan Crusaders attacker Jay Boyd stroked home to ensure his side claimed their second point in the north of the city this term. 

Reds’ boss Jim Magilton felt his side were lethargic in the opening half and rued their missed chances in the second period. 

“We scored early and that old football average of scoring too early, I’m not buying that. I said at half time I just thought we were lethargic,” admits Magilton. 

“Our passing wasn’t quick enough, albeit we did create great opportunities. We talked about Loughgall and we knew how they would set up. Low and behold, they play on the counter, and they scored a great goal. Poor from our point of view, but we gathered our thoughts at half time and came out better in the second half without really creating too many opportunities. 

“I know we’d lots of cross balls and lots of balls in the box. Joe’s shot and Ben Wilson, it was one of those days for us. It was important we didn’t lose the game obviously, but we certainly feel it was two points dropped.”

Magilton named that same starting team that began the midweek win over Coleraine, but Stephen Mallon returned to the bench for the first time since August 2022 after suffering a long term injury. 

Cliftonville made the perfect start and were ahead within two minutes, it came from a well worked free-kick routine off the training ground. 

Rory Hale looked to be hoisting it in but Ronan Doherty caught the visitors defence off guard, clipping in a high ball that was headed home by Jonny Addis for his first of the season. 

Loughgall lost Pablo Andrade to injury early on, but Dean Smith’s side threatened when Benji Magee attempted to turn inside, Jonny Addis marshalled him well and Boyd’s cut picked out Caolan McAleer who shot over the bar. 

The duo tried to combine after minutes later, but McAleer’s pass to Magee was overhit and drifted behind. 

The hosts had two chances to double their advantage, first when Rory Hale threaded a through ball into the feet of Gormley and he in turn tried to slide the ball across to Ben Wilson at the back post, only for Loughgall captain Ben Murdock to intervene. 

Hale found the run of Gormley moments later and this time the 33-year-old sent his near post attempt into the side netting. 

The chances kept coming with Ben Wilson seeing his effort deflected behind, but the resulting corner came to nothing, and Wilson then cut back to Gormley whose low shot was turned around the post by Turker and again nothing came from the set piece. 

They were chances that the Reds would rue as Loughgall drew level on the 31st minute. Jamie Rea picked the pocket of Jonny Addis in a foot race and Conor Pepper was unable to cut out his ball across to Jay Boyd- which the on-loan Crusaders attacker tapped home to make it 1-1. 

Cliftonville almost restored their lead a few minutes later when Sean Stewart found Gormley whose shot was diverted behind by Turker. 

Ronan Doherty played the corner short to Rory Hale and after playing a one-two, Hale picked out Wilson with a cross into the near post where Berraat Turker twice kept out the in-form front man. 

David Odumosu was quickly out to collect after Jamie Rea’s corner landed at the feet of Jay Boyd and Caolan Loughran tried a speculative effort that scaled the crossbar as the sides went in level at the interval. 

Cliftonville upped the ante at the beginning of the second period with Chris Gallagher fizzing a low shot past the post and wide. 

On the hour mark, Rory Hale unleashed a curling shot that struck the bar on its way behind for a goal kick. 

Midway through a half Ben Wilson laid the ball off to Ronan Doherty, but the midfielder skewed a lot shot wide of the post. 

Reds boss Jim Magilton introduced Stephen Mallon from the bench with a quarter of an hour remaining for the wingers first league appearance in over 13 months through injury. 

Mallon posed a threat in his 15-minute cameo and with ten minutes remaining he tried to pick out Rory Hale in the six-yard box, only for Luke Cartwright to throw himself in the way of the imminent danger. 

The Reds desperate attempt for the winner continued as Wilson found Gormley whose shot was parried by Berraat Turker, Wilson somehow fluffed his lines from the rebound- though the offside flag spared his blushes. 

Odhran Casey had one final attempt to snatch all three points, but the defender glanced wide from Luke Turner’s cross deep into added time and the full-time whistle sounded as the sides were forced to share the spoils. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Pepper, Addis, Casey, Turner, Stewart (Mallon 75’), Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale, Wilson, Gormley. 

LOUGHGALL: Turker, Rea, Murdock, Brogan, Andrade (Carson 7’)(Patton 75’), Teggart, McAleer (Balde 61’), Cartwright, Magee (Hoey 61’), Boyd (Ferris 61’), Loughran. 

REFEREE: Evan Boyce