All to play for after Cliftonville secure draw at Barry Town
Cliftonville have returned home from Cardiff hoping their missed chances in a scoreless draw against Barry Town United don't haunt them at Solitude on Thursday.
Barry had to play the first leg of the Europa League preliminary round tie at the Cardiff International Athletics Stadium at Leckwith after their 3G pitch failed a Fifa pro test and they will be relieved to have kept a clean sheet which gives them a fighting chance in north Belfast.
Around 350 Cliftonville fans made the trip to Wales and the crowd of 2,100 witnessed a competitive tie just lacking a little bit of magic in front of goal.
Both sides will go into the return leg with hope. The Reds will feel they have enough attacking firepower to finish the job while the Welsh side know the value of an away goal after shutting out Paddy McLaughlin's men at home.
The visitors will be a little disappointed after missing a few opportunities but now it will come down to who brings their shooting boots to Solitude next Thursday.
If the Reds can progress to the next round it will benefit the Irish League coefficient and also pocket them an additional £214,000 in European prize money, taking their total for the summer to £409,000.
Gavin Chesterfield's side finished third in last season's Welsh Premier League to secure European football for the first time since 2003 and on the balance of play, he was right to state that Cliftonville were favourites.
The Reds were a more dangerous attacking threat and will still be quietly confident they can find the goals to book a clash with Norway's Haugesund in the first qualifying round.
Cliftonville, who booked their place in the competition by beating Glentoran 2-0 in the Europa League play-off final, really began to turn up the heat midway through the second half but couldn't find a killer touch.
At a time when home goalkeeper Mike Lewis was struggling with an injury, Conor McMenamin should have found the target on 66 minutes but wasted the chance.
McMenamin broke through but slotted his left-foot shot inches wide of the far post, before Rory Donnelly skimmed the same post moments later.
Cliftonville started well but Donnelly saw a header fly over the bar.
Before the break, Barry's Jon Hood twice went close to opening the scoring but the Reds again got on top after the restart and McMenamin will feel he should have found the net.
Barry created one final chance but their captain Jordan Cotterill couldn't find the net.
The Reds' record goalscorer Joe Gormley started on the bench but not even his introduction in the second half could break the deadlock.
Substitute Ryan Curran just failed to get a touch to a dangerous delivery from a free-kick in the closing minutes as the tie was left finely balanced at the full-time whistle.
Belfast Telegraph Digital