Linfield 1 Cliftonville 2
Belief and a determination to prove a point was Cliftonville’s recipe for success at Windsor Park.
Even when they fell behind to Mark McAllister’s (below) back post header, the Reds refused to throw in the towel.
Instead they knuckled down, drew level within two minutes through Liam Boyce and went on to clinch victory thanks to George McMullan.
The Blues will look back on this second home defeat in a row as an opportunity lost to close the gap at the top of the table.
Instead of lingering in a lowly eighth position after seven starts and six points adrift they really should have been breathing down the necks of the pacesetters.
The champions dominated much of the game especially in the first half but had nothing to show for their efforts.
This prompted boss David Jeffrey to rap: “You get nothing for passing the ball around.
“We had no cutting edge and there is no point in playing good football if there is no end product.
“The previous week at Portadown we took our chances and that was the difference.
“When we went ahead with were looking at three points secured then suddenly we were looking at two points dropped then all three.
“I don’t come out and lambast my players but I make it known this isn’t good enough in terms of results.”
But Jeffrey was adamant his team should have had a first half penalty when Michael Carvill was clearly impeded.
Even the linesman flagged for a foul but, to the horror of home fans, referee Arnold Hunter awarded the free to the Reds.
Jeffrey explained: “I spoke to the linesman about it and he confirmed it was a foul to us.
“But there was a breakdown in communication and the ref decided it was too late to change his mind.
“If it was a foul then it would have been a penalty.”
Reds boss Tommy Breslin was chuffed at the outcome and confided: “At half-time I just told the lads to have more belief and take the game to them.
“I wanted a response after last week’s defeat to Ballinamallard. There were no post mortems after that game. We just looked upon it as one of those days.
“We made a few changes and those who came in did the job.
“Some teams are beaten before they go out at Windsor and we were determined we were not going to do that.
“I told the lads to go out and give a good account of themselves and we did that.
“It was more workmanlike than convincing but any win at Windsor has to be enjoyed.”
Breslin, just like Jeffrey, will have been disappointed at the goal his side conceded.
Niall Quinn’s corner from the right went right across goal unchallenged until it reached the back post where McAllister stooped to nod home.
Jeffrey was certainly dismayed by Boyce’s equaliser two minutes later which resulted from a long punt upfield.
Home defenders got themselves into a mess and, when keeper Alan Blayney left his line to try and rescue the situation, Boyce bravely nipped ahead of him.
The winner came from a by-line cross by Barry Holland leaving McMullan to apply the lethal finish.