Daniel Kearns saves Cliftonville at the death at Seaview
Danske Bank Premiership: Crusaders 1 Cliftonville 1
AN injury-time equaliser from Daniel Kearns ensured that Cliftonville escaped from Seaview with a point on Saturday and maintained their early season unbeaten record.
Cliftonville went into the north Belfast derby on the back of three wins in their opening three games, but Paddy McLaughlin's men looked lacklustre in a quiet first-half. Crusaders made a strong start to the second half, with Jordan Forsythe heading over from a Ben Kennedy cross before opening the scoring just after the hour mark, firing home a low finish after the Reds failed to clear a free-kick from the impressive Kennedy.
Cliftonville looked dead and buried until the third minute of injury-time when Kearns reacted quickest to convert the rebound after Jonny Tuffey had saved Chris Gallagher's shot.
While admitting that Cliftonville's display was not at the level of recent weeks, manager Paddy McLaughlin said their “resolve and determination” earned them the draw.
“From the off, we didn't get our foot on the ball and play enough,” he said.
“When you don't play well against one of the top sides in the division, you take a point if it's offered.
“We're really disappointed at how we performed. We've set a high standard and our poor performance almost cost us the game but, fair play to the boys, they dug in, did the ugly stuff and they probably deserved the draw.”
McLaughlin says his side have developed a more steely attitude from some tough experiences in the latter stages of games last season.
“It's hard to beat Crusaders in a scrap because they are good at it,” he added.
“The boys have a tougher mentality this season. We dropped silly points last season and we have learned lessons. The resolve and determination got us a point.
“Crusaders have scored late goals against us and it's been disheartening, it's been disgusting so it's nice to give them a taste of that medicine I suppose. No-one likes conceding late on and we certainly know how that feels.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, there was controversy at Mourneview as Glenavon's match with Carrick Rangers was abandoned after 70 minutes due to a serious injury suffered by Carrick's Lee McNulty.
Rangers were 4-0 ahead when McNulty suffered a broken ankle, with referee Shane Andrews taking the players off the pitch while the player received lengthy treatment. However, there was disagreement between the two teams about whether the match should have been finished.
Carrick manager Stuart King says he and his players wanted to finish the match, but Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton and his players said they did not want to continue and Andrews abandoned the game, with the NIFL later saying its management committee will determine the outcome.
Stephen Lowry, Eoin Bradley, Matthew Shevlin, Jamie Glackin and Ronan Wilson all got themselves on the score sheet as Coleraine hammered Dungannon Swifts 5-0 at Stangmore Park.
Larne moved into second in the table, one point behind Cliftonville, by easing to a comfortable win 3-0 over Warrenpoint Town and maintaining their 100 per cent record. Christy Manzinga scored the winner for Linfield as they came from behind to beat Portadown 3-2 at Shamrock Park.
On Friday night, Glentoran beat Ballymena United 4-1 at the Oval.