Joe Gormley grabs Cliftonville goal to seal point at Linfield
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The game between the reigning champions and the league leaders lived up to all expectations in a 1-1 draw.
David Healy’s boys stormed into an early lead through a wonder strike from Jordan Stewart, but ‘Joe The Goal’ plundered his fourth of the season to send the big away support home happy.
Blues chief Healy made only one change to the team that won convincingly against Big Two rivals Glentoran on Tuesday - Billy Chadwick replacing Matt Green up front.
Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin named the same team that took all three points at home to Warrenpoint Town.
The Blues got off to a dream start with that Stewart blockbuster. It was Chris Shields’ wonder pass that sent Chadwick clear on the left and, when the little striker cut the ball into the box, Stewart took a touch before hammering past Declan Dunne, the ball taking a slight deflection off defender Luke Turner.
Stewart almost did it again on 14 minutes when Kirk Millar’s corner-kick landed on his boot on the edge of the box, but this time he lobbed over the top.
The home team threatened again just on the half-hour when Chris Gallagher hauled down Stevie Fallon 25 yards out. Millar whipped in a free-kick that looked destined for the head of Jimmy Callacher, only for Reds defender Jonny Addis to get a telling touch.
Cliftonville had to wait until the 33rd minute for their first sniff at the other end, only for Jamie McDonagh to head Kris Lowe’s cross over the crossbar.
But it was the Blues who carved out two decent chances as the half-time clock ticked down, with Fallon firing a Millar cross high and wide before Trai Hume picked out the over-lapping Matty Clarke at the back post but his header lacked direction.
McLaughlin’s half-time team talk worked a treat because his players were back on terms just 12 minutes after the restart.
McDonagh whipped in a glorious ball from wide on the right and Gormley sneaked in behind Michael Newberry and Callacher to power home a brilliant header.
The Reds were now in full flight and, following a clever link-up between Gormley and Rory Hale, Ryan Curran could only curl his shot wide when he should have hit the target.
Healy then emptied his bench and made four alterations that almost paid a dividend as Ahmed Salam cut a cross back to Clarke, whose first-time shot was saved.
And, the Blues almost won it with two minutes remaining when Salam’s flick sent Fallon clear but, after his initial shot rebounded off Levi Ives, the midfielder could only volley wide.
LINFIELD: Johns, Newberry, Shields, Callacher, Millar (Quinn, 59), Hume, Stewart (Salam, 73), M.Clarke, Fallon, Chadwick (Green, 58), Palmer (Donnelly, 73).
Subs (not used): Walsh, Roscoe-Byrne, A.Clarke.
CLIFTONVILLE: Dunne, Ives, C.Curran, R.Curran, McDonagh (Hale, 59), Lowe, Addis, Doherty, Gormley (O’Neill, 83), Turner (Donnelly, 90), Gallagher.
Subs (not used): McNicholas, Foster, Coates, Kearns.
REFEREE: Keith Kennedy.
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