Cliftonville mark anniversary with seven-goal exhibition
CLIFTONVILLE toasted their birthday with a round of seven up as Bangor were emphatically dismissed from the County Antrim Shield at Solitude on Tuesday.
Floodlight failure had threatened to turn the party into a non-event on the 137th anniversary of the Reds’ formation but, following some technical wizardry that forced a 15-minute delay to kick-off, the north Belfast side made light work of their opponents. Gary Donnelly plundered a hat-trick to take his tally to an impressive four goals in two appearances, while namesake Jay as well as Davy McDaid and Ross Lavery were also on target, in addition to a second-half own goal that no visiting player was keen on laying claim to.
Bangor’s last visit to Solitude was also on County Antrim Shield duty, but the difference between the occasions could not have been more stark for the Seasiders. Less than two years after contesting the competition’s final against the Reds in front of a capacity crowd, the north Down outfit - who appeared to be plotting a relentless course towards promotion to the Premiership back then - arrived bearing lowly Premier Intermediate status after taking voluntary relegation from the Championship over administrative affairs last season.
Already out of both the Irish Cup and League Cup, Bangor’s hopes of maintaining an interest in senior competition this term rested on their trials and tribulations against Cliftonville and things looked ominous from the get-go, with Martin Donnelly twice denied by goalkeeper Darren Gibbons and Daniel Hughes thwarted by a last-gasp intervention from Noel Halfpenny.
The inevitable breakthrough arrived on 14 minutes, when Hughes’ inviting cross from the right found Jay Donnelly unmarked and he made no mistake with a close-range finish. Gary Donnelly powered home a header from Eamonn Seydak’s delivery shortly afterwards and, though Bangor went close with an Ethan Knipe free-kick that clipped the outside of the post, Cliftonville’s forward motion was relentless at times and it came as no surprise when they pulled further ahead - Gary Donnelly stroking home after Caoimhín Bonner had nodded Martin Donnelly’s set-piece in his direction. It should have been 4-0 just before the break when Gibbons spilled a Jay Donnelly drive, but Hughes’ follow-up was blocked on the line by Keith Armstrong.
The fourth duly arrived early in the second period when Dale Patton’s foul on Martin Donnelly allowed Gary to complete his treble from the spot. Substitute Davy McDaid made it 5-0 after a sublime touch from Chris Curran and the sixth arrived when a combination of Armstrong and Brett Widdowson contrived to put the ball over their own goal-line.
Ross Lavery - who had been generously credited with that strike by Solitude’s PA announcer - made absolutely sure of getting himself on the scoresheet with three minutes left, but there was still time for the Seasiders to pull one back with a penalty of their own; Gerard McMullan earning and then converting to have the final say of a comfortable birthday bonanza from the hosts.
Cliftonville: Burke, McGovern, Bonner, Curran, M Donnelly, Hughes, Seydak, Catney, J Donnelly, Cosgrove, G Donnelly; Subs: Ives, Knowles, McDaid (for Hughes, 58 mins), Winchester (For J Donnelly, 69 mins), Lavery (for M Donnelly, 58 mins).
Bangor: Gibbons, Long, Calvert, Widdowson, Armstrong, Walsh, Knipe, Halfpenny, Beattie, Patton, McMullan; Subs: Craig (for Patton, 65 mins), Dalzell (for Beattie, 46 mins), Edgar, Mulgrew (for Knipe, 71 mins), Lucas.
Ref: R Crangle (Belfast).