Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Cliftonville 1 Dungannon Swifts 0

Cliftonville boss Eddie Patterson commended his players’ spirit after Kieran O’Connor’s late strike propelled the Reds up to fourth in the table.

As the clock ticked towards a scoreless draw, both sides looked set to rue a number of missed opportunities to steal the points and the respective bosses agreed that a share of the spoils would not have been an unfair outcome.

“I would go along with that,” admitted Patterson.

“We started the match pretty well and took the game to Dungannon for the first 15 minutes or so but then seemed to get a bit complacent and sloppy in our approach.

“When you switch off like that, it’s not always just as easy to get it going again and, having allowed Dungannon to get a bit of a foothold, we found it difficult to get back into our stride.

“We upped it again after half-time and we wanted to try and keep things simple.

“We had a few decent chances to get our goal and it looked like it just wasn’t going to come, but credit to the lads because they never gave up and the goal itself was evidence of that.

“I don’t know how many times Kieran O’Connor found himself in that position over the course of the game. He had one shot well saved by their keeper, one time when the ball seemed to hold up a wee bit under his feet and then probably two or three headers which he was unable to get on target.

“He kept doing his job, though, continued making the runs and got his reward with the goal.”

Dungannon could count themselves unfortunate not to break the deadlock when Ryan McIlmoyle struck with the post with a curling effort in the first-half and Adam McMinn was denied from point-blank range by a brave John Connolly block in the second.

Though the Swifts were always dangerous on the counter, Cliftonville were the more inventive side after the interval and went close through O’Connor on a number of occasions, while Ciaran Caldwell sent a vicious drive inches beyond the toe of Liam Boyce at the far post.

The goal finally came seven minutes from time when McMinn miscued his clearance from Liam Fleming’s cross and O’Connor threw out a left pef to thunder the ball into the top corner.

“I can’t fault the players’ efforts because they worked very hard for 90 minutes,” said downbeat Swifts boss Dixie Robinson.

“I thought we were the better team in the first-half and created a few chances which we were unlucky not to take.

“Cliftonville came at us after half-time but I thought we coped well and could even have scored ourselves. I actually thought Adam [McMinn] had put the ball over the bar himself, but it seems their keeper has made a great save.

“After working our socks off for so long in very difficult conditions, it’s shame the goal has come from a mistake because I don’t think we deserved to lose.

“I can’t be angry with them, though, and it’s important we react well and bounce back in our next game.”