Joe Gormley at the double to guide Cliftonville to win over Dungannon
Danske Bank Premiership: Dungannon Swifts 1 Cliftonville 3
CLIFTONVILLE may have went behind at Stangmore Park on Saturday but the evergreen ruthlessness of Joe Gormley ensured that, by the final whistle, they were leaving Dungannon with all three points.
An early Oisín Smyth penalty put the Danske Bank Premiership’s basement club in front against the Reds, but two Gormley strikes either side of half-time put a more familiar look on the scoreline for Paddy McLaughlin’s high flyers.
Dungannon had their moments as Rhyss Campbell shot against the Cliftonville woodwork and Ryan Mayse fired wide after being sent clear before the Reds’ Ryan Curran punished a late defensive blunder to put the seal on the victory.
The win sent Cliftonville four points clear at the top of the Irish League table and manager McLaughlin knows how vital their record goal-scorer is to them in games like Saturday’s.
“He’s a phenomenal player with a phenomenal goal scoring record,” said McLaughlin of Gormley.
“He’s a legend of the club and there’s still many years left in the tank yet for him, so he’ll go and smash records and set records that nobody will ever catch. He’s been a fantastic player for me in my time here, he’s been a fantastic player down the years for every other manager and he keeps doing the business time and time again.”
Despite Dungannon’s early season struggles – they have now lost three from three and conceded 11 goals along the way – McLaughlin knew his side were in for a battle at Stangmore Park and was pleased with the ruthlessness on display.
“It was everything that we thought it was going to be – a really tough game against a brilliant footballing team,” he added.
“Dean Shiels encourages them to get the ball down and play the right way. Thankfully, our boys were strong in possession and out of possession and worked hard to get the job done.
“In the first-half, we were probably slow out of the blocks and a bit sluggish on it. They broke one or two times on us with their pace up top and they do keep the ball really well, but I think we always had that goal threat when we had the ball in the final third of the pitch.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Coleraine midfielder Conor McKendry scored a stunning late equaliser at Windsor Park to rescue a draw against Linfield, who dropped their first points of the season. Christy Manzinga had given Linfield the lead just after the hour mark when he reacted quickest to Stephen Fallon's pass to clip the ball over the advancing Gareth Deane.
A Jay Donnelly hat-trick gave Glentoran their third league win of the season at they cruised past Warrenpoint at Milltown. Donnelly was without a goal in the Glens' opening three games but headed home Shay McCartan's cross on 24 minutes before doubling the visitors’ lead with the easiest of tap-ins from Conor McMenamin's square ball after he had been played in by a beautiful McCartan pass. The former Cliftonville player completed his hat-trick after 60 minutes from a penalty which he won when he was brought down by Steven Ball inside the area.
At Seaview, a 16th minute Adam Lecky goal proved enough to give Crusaders all three points in a hard-fought clash with Larne. Portadown’s early season woes continued as they lost to Carrick Rangers at Taylor’s Avenue. Although the Ports twice hit the woodwork in the first-half, it was the hosts who struck the decisive blow after the break when Mark Surgenor converted from the spot after Jordan Gibson was taken down by Portadown ’keeper Jethren Barr.
Ryan Waide came up with the goods late on against Glenavon to earn Ballymena a first point of the season. Matthew Fitzpatrick had earlier given the Lurgan Blues the lead at the Showgrounds.