Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville thump Linfield to romp into final

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville 6 Linfield 2: With Halloween fast approaching, Cliftonville youngster Rory Donnelly scared the life out of Linfield as he helped fire his side into the Paddy Power Co Antrim Shield final against Glentoran.

Cliftonville may have uncovered the new Liam Boyce as the 19-year-old hit a sensational hat-trick to ensure Linfield’s Shield jinx continued.

It was a night to cherish for the Solitude faithful, a night to forget for Linfield.

Reds boss Tommy Breslin can now look forward to his first final as a manager and on this evidence Glentoran would be wrong to breath a sigh of relief that it’s not a Big Two showdown on Tuesday, November 29.

The Reds, coming into the battle in confident mood after winning four games on the spin, were always going to ask searching questions of Linfield.

Four goals were scored in a blistering 22-minute spell but the Blues were more encouraged at the break after wiping out a 2-0 lead.

Both sides looked threatening in the opening 15 minutes but Rory Donnelly lit up Solitude in his own unique way in the 20th minute. Collecting a cross from Eamonn Seydak he unleashed a sweet left-foot strike that flew into the corner of the net past keeper Alan Blayney.

Two minutes later the teenage striker produced more fireworks, cutting inside Steven Douglas before firing a rocket of a shot into the roof of the net.

However, Linfield showed their mettle by hitting back in the manner you would expect from league champions.

On 28 minutes, Damien Curran’s cross was headed back into the danger area by Carvill and Aaron Burns headed in from close range.

Aaron Burns missed the target with another free header but rejuvenated Linfield levelled the scores in the 42nd minute.

Aaron Smyth screwed a clearance, Fordyce headed the ball back towards the goal and Mark McAllister found the net with a smart turn and finish from six yards.

Any hopes Linfield had that Rory Donnelly would lose his scoring touch in the second half were quickly crushed.

Three minutes after the re-start the Reds regained the lead when the two Donnellys combined to lethal effect.

After Michel Gault had fouled Ryan Catney in midfield, Martin’s precise free-kick picked out Rory who guided a downward header beyond Blayney.

The Blues number one flicked a George McMullan lob over the crossbar but he could only look on in the 53rd minute as Barry Holland’s header from Marty Donnelly’s corner rebounded off the crossbar.

Robert Garrett then failed to get his head on a teasing cross from Jim Ervin but Linfield missed an even more glorious chance to hit the equaliser in the 60th minute when McAllister had only Brown to beat.

His shot was firmly struck but Brown made a superb block.

Rory Donnelly, not content to bask in the glory of his hat-trick, came within inches of a fourth in the 63rd minute but his curling effort cannoned off the crossbar.

But the Blues’ luck ran out on 67 minutes when Martin Donnelly collected a fine pass from substitute Stephen Garrett and although his angled drive was tipped away by Blayney, George McMullan was on hand to poke in the rebound.

Two minutes later Jeffrey’s side were floored by a counter-attack as Ryan Catney squared for Garrett to power in a fifth goal.

Linfield introduced Rory Patterson but it was the Reds who almost netted a sixth when substitute Joe Gormley’s header bounced back off the post.

But the Blues miserable night was complete in the 90th minute when Albert Watson slotted the ball into his own net after a horrible mix-up with Blayney.

LINFIELD: Blayney, Douglas, Gault, Curran, Carvill (BJ Burns 71), A Burns (Lowry 71), Fordyce, Garrett, Ervin (Patterson 77), Watson, McAllister. Subs (not used): Murphy, Casement.

CLIFTONVILLE: Brown, Johnston, Holland, McMullan, C Scannell (Garrett 59, M Donnelly (Caldwell 87), Smyth, R Donnelly (Gormley 76), Seydak, Catney, McVeigh. Subs (not used): R Scannell, Bradley.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).

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