Dungannon Swifts 0 Cliftonville 1
Stephen Garrett’s goal was worthy of winning the points at snowy Stangmore Park.
But, otherwise, the scoreline hides the real story of a game where chances were plentiful, with the main post-match debate concerning two penalty incidents.
One of these saw the visiting team awarded a spot-kick, the other one seeing the hopes of the home side dashed and it all left the rival managers expressing contrasting opinions on the validity of their respective claims.
After Garrett’s goal — a scooped shot over grounded goalkeeper Sean O’Neill after he had foot-blocked the initial strike on 13 minutes — the former Newry City forward should have had the insurance second when Swifts fullback Ryan O’Neill was adjudged to have fouled Ronan Scannell. But namesake Sean made a fine save.
Late in the game, Dungannon’s Ryan McIlmoyle went down under pressure from Aaron Smyth only to have his spot-kick demands brushed aside by Carrickfergus referee Ross Dunlop.
“I am just absolutely gutted to be turned down a stonewall penalty — a definite penalty, no matter what anyone says” insisted Swifts boss Dixie Robinson.
“It was an absolute disgrace. I think maybe that if I complain about officials, we might get a decision as that is how it seems to go.
“The bottom line is that there were two penalty decisions and just one was given. Ours was a stonewall penalty and theirs was a ‘don’t know’ one.
“I just don’t know if the officials were brave enough to make a decision. It is infuriating. The referee has cost us a point.” Not so, according to Eddie Patterson.
“I don’t think Dungannon were hard done by,” said the Reds manager.
“I think the referee got it spot on and, having spoken to my players, I know that he (McIlmoyle) wasn’t touched. There was no contact whatsoever.
“We should have had the game wrapped up at half-time. We didn’t play particularly well but I think that we had the best chances and crucially took one and should have scored more.”