Cliftonville 0 Ballinamallard United 1
Tommy Breslin admitted that Saturday’s defeat to Ballinamallard United will not have come as a shock to anyone who has seen Cliftonville this season.
Though they entered the weekend’s contest sitting top of the Danske Bank Premiership, the Reds have yet to really find their rhythm and were punished for this latest disjointed performance when Jason McCartney pounced to earn the Mallards a stoppagetime victory.
“This has been coming for a while, if we’re honest,” said Breslin.
“Right throughout this season, we’ve only played in fits and starts and this was another game where we were lacking in any sort of quality.
“We had struggled for consistency in the opening few matches, though the way we played against Ballymena last week was much more like our old selves and I’d hoped we could carry that with us, but it was just such a flat performance all round.
“I warned the players before the game about underestimating Ballinamallard because I knew they were a good side who could hurt us and it seems that message wasn’t heeded.”
As sluggish as the Reds were, the day belonged to the visitors whose perfect execution of an admittely defensive gameplan reaped dividends when substitute McCartney became the third United player of the afternoon to strike the woodwork — but, unlike Chris Curran and Ryan Campbell before him, this time the ball rebounded favourably and into the net.
“This is the greatest result in our history,” said assistant manager Brian Khan, standing in for boss Whitey Anderson, whose celebratory jig on the touchline preceded a hasty exit for a prior engagement.
“After losing to Crusaders and Glentoran, we had to get the boys’ heads up again and it was important we didn’t lose three in a row,” he added.
“We set things up a little bit on the defensive side to make sure we were harder to break down and, as good as the boys at the back were, the truth is we had heroes all over the park.
“Everyone put in an honest shift and to beat one of the best teams in Irish football away from home is just unbelievable.”