Cliftonville pay the penalty as Dungannon Swifts progress to Betfred league Cup semi-final with shoot-out win
CLIFTONVILLE crashed out of the BetMcLean League Cup as holders Dungannon Swifts marched through to the semi-finals with a penalty shoot-out victory at Solitude last night.
A drab contest was lit up eight minutes into extra-time when Levi Ives smashed home a screamer that looked to have put the Reds on course for the last four but their failure to put the game to bed meant the Swifts were always in the tie – and they paid the price when Johnny Lafferty pounced to level four minutes from the end.
The hosts' hopes of spot-kick success got off to the worst possible start when the usually reliable shooting boots of Joe Gormley struck wide and, when captain Ryan Catney blazed over some eight kicks later, the Swifts were through courtesy of a 3-2 win.
The visitors came close to making the breakthrough after just 18 seconds last night when a Mark Patton cross had just too much pace on it for Johnny Lafferty to connect with, while Cliftonville's first opening came and went when Jay Donnelly curled over the top from 20 yards.
Elder brother Rory smashed a free-kick just wide of the mark on 32 minutes and, less than 60 seconds later, was left frustrated when Conor McDonald failed to pick him out when he was unmarked inside the area.
Soon later, Lafferty came close to putting the Swifts ahead when he sprang the offside trap to race through on goal but, with the angle always against him, he found his route obstructed by home goalkeeper Brian Neeson – who showed smart reactions on 40 minutes when Garry Breen almost touched an Alan Teggart into his own net.
In between times, the biggest talking point of a seriously dull first-half saw assistant referee Stephen Donaldson retire through injury, with fourth official Christopher Morrison taking over flag duties in his stead.
The second period was much livelier and, though Cliftonville had by now got on top of proceedings, it was the visitors who carved out easily the best chance of the game when Patton waltzed through in yards and yards of space but found Neeson in unbeatable form.
Six minutes from the end, Rory Donnelly argued that his close-range header from Stephen Garrett's cross had sneaked over the line before Morgan's intervention but the officials were unmoved, ensuring that an additional 30 minutes of play would be required.
Ives stunned the Swifts with a long-range drive that soared into the top corner but, rather than build on their lead, Cliftonville invited pressure that ultimately yielded Lafferty scrambling home to set up penalties.
Following Gormley's miss, both Paul McElroy and Chris Hegarty put Dungannon 2-0 up before Garrett saw his attempt saved.
Jay Donnelly was the first home player to register from the spot and, though Jarlath O'Rourke would extend the Swifts' advantage, Neeson's save from Alan Teggart allowed Ives to keep Cliftonville in it when he struck for 3-2.
That meant Catney simply had to score if the Reds were to stand any chance of progress but he scaled the bar to spark Dungannon celebrations as they count down to a semi-final date with either Portadown or Linfield next month.
CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C Curran, R Donnelly, McDonald, Bagnall, Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly. Subs: Garrett (Curran, 71 mins), McConnell (McDonald, 101 mins), Lavery, Maguire (R Donnelly, 110 mins), McMenamin, A Donnelly, Casey.
DUNGANNON: Morgan, Hegarty, Wilson, Armstrong, Clucas, McMullan, McElroy, Teggart, Patton, Lowe, Lafferty. Subs: Coney, Dykes (Armstrong, 106 mins), O'Rourke (Wilson, 101 mins), Burke (Patton, 86 mins), Hutchinson (McMullan, 78 mins), Campbell, Smyth.
REFEREE: Andrew Davey (Bangor)