Cliftonville 2 Newry City 1
Cliftonville made it three wins in a week with this comeback victory over Newry City on Saturday but boss Eddie Patterson was once again left frustrated by a host of decisions which he felt went against his side.
The Reds had trailed to a 21st minute Gerard Rowe penalty before rising star Rory Donnelly equalised with a sensational volleyed effort ahead of former Newry favourite Stephen Garrett securing the points following a howler from City keeper Nathan Morley-Hillen.
Pleased as he was with the win, Patterson was nevertheless scratching his head over the performance of match referee Raymond Hetherington.
“I’m not going to go into specifics because I could be here all day but suffice to say there were a number of incidents which confused me,” he said.
“If we take our last three matches as examples, I can’t be accused of sour grapes because we’ve won each of them.
“Against Donegal Celtic, Glenavon and now Newry, we’ve seen some mind-blowing decisions made by the various referees in charge and what I would like to do is invite someone in authority to sit with me and review the videos of each of those games.
“We can go through it incident by incident and I’ll listen to the explanations given for each decision because, honestly, some of the things which have been going on defy belief as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s a situation which needs to be addressed and I can only praise my players for the way they’ve come through recent adversities to get wins on the board.
“It’s every bit as frustrating for them when they have so many things given against them and, generally, it’s not long before the yellow cards are out for questioning decisions.
“Give them credit, though, because they’ve stuck to their task and worked very hard to get the points against Newry.
“We started quite well but then went off the boil a bit but I feel we addressed a few issues at half-time and produced a better display after that.”
If Cliftonville’s equaliser was sublime — a first-time Donnelly volley from the corner of the penalty box — then their winner was ridiculous; Garrett pouncing for a tap-in when Morley-Hillen dropped the ball after clattering into team-mate Gavin McDonnell.
It was yet another case of so near and yet so far for City boss Gerry Flynn.
“We came to Solitude fully expecting to collect three points,” he said.
“That’s not us being over-confident or arrogant, it’s just fact. I know we have the talent within our squad to come to places like this and get a result but we’ve been punished for not putting the ball in the net.”
Indeed, Newry might have led by ? at the interval with Rowe flashing a volley just wide before Alan Davidson and Andy Graham were each denied by the woodwork.
Their cause wasn’t helped when Darren King was forced off on a stretcher in the opening minutes and, though he expects his full-back to be absent for six weeks or so, Flynn took a moment to reflect on some pretty macabre ironies.
“He’s due to begin a six-game suspension anyway, so it’s saying something when you think that’s the only kind of luck we had in the game.
“I’m still confident we can push on and climb up the table,” he added.
“The big different against Cliftonville was that we didn’t take our chances. You can’t legislate for either of their goals — one was a real cracker and the keeper’s dropped the ball for the other.”