Cliftonville and Linfield share spoils in game for the ages
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Cliftonville 3 Linfield 3
WHERE do you start with this game? The tunnel dust-up? The three red cards? Warren Feeney’s Linfield future? Or, for that matter, Gerard Lyttle’s Cliftonville future?
Cliftonville’s second-half comeback? Georgie McMullan’s penalty miss? Or Georgie McMullan’s stupendous goal?
If you weren’t at Solitude on Saturday afternoon, where were you?
This game had absolutely everything. After too many twists and turns to mention, Saturday’s unforgettable clash ended in a 3-3 draw.
The only starting point must be McMullan’s sumptuous chipped finish that put the home side ahead midway through the second half.
A few minutes earlier, the Cliftonville veteran saw his penalty saved by Ross Glendinning.
But then McMullan lit up Solitude with one of the best goals of any Irish League season. With so little room to work in, the Reds substitute chipped the ball into the far corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
“It was the only option I had,” McMullan said.
“I went outside and then back inside and I couldn’t get the ball out of my feet. Marty Donnelly does it every night in training. He gets it and just dinks it to the back post. When I was in that position I just thought: ‘Marty Donnelly’.
“It took an age before it went in. I can’t wait to have a look back at it!”
McMullan smiled: “We’ll not talk about the penalty miss – we’ll talk about the chip. We went 3-2 up and I think we seen our names in lights, boys were breaking forward but I think we left ourselves a wee bit exposed. We were a bit naïve. It was a great atmosphere and probably a fair result and Linfield played their part.”
Linfield substitute Aaron Burns nodded home to level the game in the closing stages. David Kee and Mark Haughey put the Blues two up in the first half before Marty Donnelly, Caoimhin Bonner and McMullan found the target for the Reds.
Linfield’s Sean Ward and Cliftonville’s Eamonn Seydak were sent off in separate incidents in the second half, while Bonner was sent off after the final whistle for tangling with Linfield’s unused substitute Jimmy Callacher in the tunnel.
Cliftonville’s caretaker boss Gerard ‘Skin’ Lyttle is still in the dark over getting the job on a permanent basis, but McMullan believes the club don’t need to look for a new manager.
“Personally, I think he’s done enough. ‘Skin’ has been about the club for the last number of years and he knows the place.
“He’s an ex-player, a fan; I think he fits the bill. It’s bit like the way Tommy [Breslin] came in. ‘Skin’ has exactly the same pedigree. All the boys love him, so hopefully the board will make a sensible choice.”
Lyttle has been in charge for four games and remains unbeaten in the role. Lyttle commented: “I’ve loved the job. I’ve loved everything about it. Preparing for games, speaking to players one-to-one and coaching. I enjoy all that. I have that bond with the players and I will continue to manage like that.
“People will question me: ‘Am I too nice? Am I too close to the players?’
“We’ve had our meetings with players. They’re not stupid. They know when they need a rollicking and I know when they need an arm around them, and that’s the way I’ll continue to do the job.”
Meanwhile, Linfield manager Warren Feeney refused to be drawn on his own future after being heavily linked to a coaching role at English League Two club Newport alongside former Republic of Ireland international John Sheridan.
“It’s only speculation," Feeney said.
"I see John got the [Newport] job. I worked with John at Plymouth. He’s a fantastic guy. But you can’t stop speculation.”