Bet McLean Cup Round Three
Dungannon Swifts 1-0 Cliftonville 

Cliftonville limped out of the Bet McLean Cup on Tuesday evening after putting in a below-par display in a 1-0 defeat to Dungannon Swfits at Stangmore Park.

The visitors were outplayed in a poor first half showing and despite upping at the ante after the break, they were unable to generate any great momentum and Matty Lusty’s goal with little under a quarter of an hour remaining condemned the Reds to their second Cup exit of the season much to the frustration of boss Jim Magilton who felt his side were second best throughout.

“We were second best. There may be reasons for that but in our team with the quality we have in the starting line-up, there is enough quality in there to win games,” Magilton acknowledged. 

“The one thing that you have to be able to do is show that tenacity and show that courage and present yourself. The one thing that shouldn’t ever be asked of any player and especially these lads at this club, to go out and really show a commitment. It is really hard at times. 

“Dungannon deserve credit, so we have to hand credit to Dungannon for the way they played, especially first half. I thought they were better than us and we couldn’t really get going. 

“We hand the opposition that credit to Rodney and Dixie. As far as we’re concerned, I preach about performance levels and our performance levels, first half especially were far below what we expect.”

Magilton made a raft of changes from the squad that were beaten by Larne on Friday evening.

Nathan Gartside came into replacer David Odumosu in goals, Stephen Mallon made his first start since returning from long-term injury as did Ronan Hale in attack. Elsewhere, Luke Kenny, Stephen McGuiness and Sam Ashford were all handed starting roles.

Dungannon Swifts were almost ahead within the opening 60 seconds as Shea Kearney failed to cut out a pass towards Niall Owens and Nathan Gartside was forced to spread himself and turn the ball behind for a corner.

The visitors only opportunity of note came via an ambitious Ronan Hale effort from distance that drifted off target.

The Swifts were in complete control. Ethan McGee picked out Steven Scott with a ball down the channel and his pass found youngster Tomas Galvin who curled a shot over the bar.

McGee then saw his hooked effort take a deflection and fall into the arms of Nathan Gartside.

Jonny Addis was forced to block an attempted Matthew Lusty cross into the area and on the stroke of half time Kealan Dillon’s low shot forced Gartside to stretch himself to keep hold of the effort as it remained scoreless at the break.

Cliftonville began the second period brighter, but Chris Gallagher was unable to find Ronan Hale in space after firing a low ball across the box.

Sam Ashford glanced wide from Ronan Doherty’s cross and after Ronan Hale was upended on the edge of the box, Chris Gallagher sent a snapshot whistling wide.

Former Reds’ goalkeeper Declan Dunne was called into action when Ronan Hale attempted to life Jonny Addis’ pass over him and into the net, but the shot stopper was equal to Hale’s effort.

The duo of Addis and Hale combined again midway through the half and Hale slashed at the opportunity and blazed over.

Thereafter the Swifts regained the initiative and only the post denied Caolan Marron from making the breakthrough after Ethan McGee cut the ball back.

Niall Owens looped a header from Kealan Dillon’s cross two minutes before the deadlock was broken.

It was the hosts who deservedly hit the front on the balance of play. On-loan Larne striker Matty Lusty showed great footwork to avoid the challenge of Luke Kenny and Shea Kearney before steering a shot low into the corner of the net to give the Swifts the lead.

Ronan Hale saw his shot from the edge of the area deflected behind for a corner as Cliftonville chased an equaliser.

Jim Magilton’s charges huffed and puffed, and their best opportunity of a leveller came in injury time when Declan Dunne spilled Ronan Doherty’s corner, but Jonny Addis was unable to take full advantage. His goal-bound effort was deflected behind for a corner, which would come to nothing.

In the end, the Swifts held on to ensure they take their place in the draw for the last eight as the Reds exited their second cup competition of season in underwhelming circumstances.
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Dunne, McGee (Devine 90+2’), J Scott (Glenny 72’), Curry, Marron, Owens, Dillon, S Scott, Lusty, Alves, Galvin (Whiteside 87’).
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Kearney, Addis, Kenny, McGuinness, Gallagher, Rory Hale (Gormley 88’), Doherty, Mallon (Berry 83’), Ronan Hale, Ashford (Wilson 71’).
REFEREE: Keith Kennedy