Paddy McLaughlin rues Liam Bagnall red card as Linfield clinch victory
CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin bemoaned a red-card issued to Liam Bagnall as Chris Casement struck the only goal of the game to give Linfield a 1-0 win at Windsor Park on Saturday afternoon.
Bagnall was shown a second yellow card by referee Keith Kennedy for taking down Jamie Mulgrew on the 56th minute and Casement ensured the Blues made the most of their numerical advantage.
The hosts also ended the game with 10 men after Kirk Millar received his marching orders late on but the Blues held on for a victory which saw them leapfrog their Belfast rivals to the Premiership summit.
McLaughlin was delighted with his sides effort throughout the game but felt the turning point came after Bagnall’s ‘soft’ dismissal.
“It’s disappointing after all the effort that the boys had put in,” said McLaughlin.
“They were superb and kept their shape brilliantly throughout the game, especially in the first half, I thought we really frustrated Linfield well.
“I don’t think I need to say what the turning point in the game was. It’s a decision that’s gone against us; which we’re really frustrated with because it’s a soft red-card.''
Jamie Harney returned to the Reds line-up having missed the previous weekends defeat to Glentoran, whilst Northern Ireland international Shane Lavery was included in the Blues starting 11.
The first half was rather uneventful with the best opportunity arriving after the half-hour mark when Rory Donnelly robbed Jimmy Callacher in possession but Rohan Ferguson turned Donnelly’s low effort around the post.
Linfield made the brighter start to the second period and should have hit the front through a Jimmy Callacher header from Matthew Clarke’s free-kick but the crossbar denied the Blues centre-back.
Liam Bagnall was then shown a second yellow card for tripping Jamie Mulgrew and eight minutes later Linfield made the most of the extra-man as Chris Casement guided Stephen Fallon’s cross to the net past Richard Brush.
Cliftonville were almost back on terms just little under 20 minutes remaining as Rory Donnelly’s high drive crashed off the crossbar and over.
At the other end the woodwork denied Linfield doubling their lead as Bastian Hery’s curling effort came back off the base of the post.
Chris Curran and Joe Gormley both had chances to restore parity for Cliftonville but Curran took a heavy touch and Gormley glanced a header over the bar.
On 84 minutes it was 10 men apiece as Kirk Millar was adjudged to have caught left-back Aaron Donnelly with a high foot and referee Kennedy issued the winger with a straight red-card.
The Reds pressed for a late equaliser but Linfield keeper Rohan Ferguson was equal to Aaron Donnelly’s near post effort and Linfield held on for all three-points to take them to the Premiership summit for the first time this season.
David Healy will be hoping that his side can stretch their advantage with two games in hand over their title rivals in the weeks ahead.