NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 1-2 Dungannon Swifts 

CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin has conceded that the league title is beyond his side after Dungannon Swifts completed an injury-time turnaround on Saturday to leave Solitude with a 2-1 win for the second time in the space of two weeks. 

The Reds were laboured in the opening half but improved slightly after the break and led through a Ronan Hale header on the hour mark. 

Their inability to double their lead would come back to bite in the aftermath as the Swifts stole all three points in injury time.  

Both goals came from the bench as Padraig Lynch levelled from a close-range header before Joe Moore swept home the winner to move Dean Shiels’ side seven points clear of Portadown at the foot of the table and leave Cliftonville’s title hopes in tatters. 

McLaughlin admits that he was shell-shocked by the game’s conclusion and feels the title is now beyond his side. 

“There’s that wee bit of shell shock,” he conformed.

“I suppose we were comfortable enough for large parts of the game.

“We were nowhere near our best I suppose. We’d so many chances to make it 2-0 and put the game safe. A second goal would have obviously put the game to bed and kill off any hope that Dungannon had, but as the game edged towards the 90th minute, I thought we got a bit edgy. 

“We didn’t manage the game well enough in the closing stages. We let them in once, just before they equalised down the right-hand side. It was a warning shot that we should have adhered to, but we didn’t. They got down a second time and it was a free header on the six-yard line and it’s criminal. 

“I’m really, really shocked and disappointed that we’ve let that happen. Then obviously we’re throwing everything to try and win the game because a draw was no good for us. Then a quick counterattack and they picked us off and scored a second. 

“I’m devastated for the players because they put in so much. Devastated for the fans because they’ve come here and backed us right throughout the season. That probably seals our chances of winning the league so it’s important now that we take our hit and try and learn. 

“Hopefully, we will learn from it. We’ve got to go now for the rest of the season and finish as high up as we can because there are European places up for grabs. That will be the target.”

McLaughlin was forced into one alteration from Monday evening's 2-2 draw in the North Belfast derby at Seaview. Odhran Casey dropped out through suspension with Jonny Addis returning to the centre of defence. 

A mistake from Kris Lowe almost allowed the Swifts in on the quarter-hour mark, though Colin Coates stood firm to deny Marc Walsh. 

It took over half an hour for Cliftonville to threaten with Declan Dunne parrying Ronan Hale’s effort as far as Luke Turner who blazed the follow-up over the bar. 

James Knowles lobbed a speculative free-kick over the bar from range and in first-half injury-time the best chance fell for the hosts. 

Rory Hale took a Chris Gallagher pass to feet and curled an effort against the bar as the half-finished scoreless. 

Cliftonville upped the ante after the restart, Ronan Doherty slipped in Sean Moore and his ball to the back post evaded Rory Hale. 

Moore linked up with Ronan Hale whose low effort whistled past the post and Joe Gormley almost made an immediate impact from the bench, hooking over after Rory Hale’s corner was half cleared. 

The breakthrough arrived on the hour mark at Solitude. Luke Turner picked out Ronan Doherty from a throw-in and his terrific cross was met by the head of Ronan Hale for his 25th goal of the season. 

There were opportunities for the Reds to double their advantage. Ronan Hale latched onto a through ball and seemed to hesitate before forcing a corner from Declan Dunne. 

Ryan Curran forced a second set-piece with a low drive from the corner before Dunne hung onto a Joe Gormley knockdown. 

At the other end, substitute Joe Moore called Nathan Gartside into action with an effort that was palmed behind, the corner would come to nothing though. 

Ten minutes from time Ronan Hale clipped in a cross, but Ryan Curran glanced his header inches past the post. 

As the game ticked towards its conclusion, Hale’s goal was still the difference, but the Swifts made Cliftonville regret their lack of cutting edge in front of goal.

Sean Moore in action with James Knowles

Sean Moore in action with James Knowles


Joe Moore held off Colin Coates and switched the play to Steven Scott who clipped the ball in and Padraig Lynch guided his free header into the corner of the net from six yards to ensure at least a share of the spoils. 

Cliftonville went all out for a winner in the closing stages, it would lead to their downfall however as they were caught out on the counterattack. 

Joe Moore launched a high ball to the wing for Corey Smith to chase, Smith controlled and beat Rory Hale before cutting back for Moore to sweep a shot beyond the reach of Nathan Gartside and make it 2-1. 

There wouldn’t be enough time for a response and for the second time in the space of two weeks, Dean Shiels’ side was able to celebrate a huge victory at Solitude and one that is undoubtedly a fatal blow to the Reds’ chances of league success. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis (C Curran HT’), Coates (Parkhouse 90+1’), Turner, Gallagher (Gormley 57’), Doherty, Rory Hale, Moore (Rocks 76’), Ronan Hale, R Curran. 

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Dunne, Marron, Knowles, O’Connor (Lynch 82’), Curry, McGinty, Walsh (Moore 67’), Jenkins (Smith 82’), Animasahun, Scott, Bruna (Cushnie 67’). 

REFEREE: Helgi Jónasson