Belfast Telegraph

Jay Donnelly's delight as Blues bag a priceless win against Linfield

Linfield 1-2 Cliftonville

By David Mason

Goal hero Jay Donnelly believes the best is yet to come from his impressive Cliftonville team.

The 20-year-old just couldn't camouflage his delight after bagging a priceless winner against Linfield in the Danske Bank Premiership thriller at soggy Windsor Park on Saturday.

His goal not only took Gerard Lyttle's team into second place in the league table, but also extended the Reds' remarkable unbeaten run against their cross-town rivals to an astonishing 11 games.

Linfield now haven't tasted a Premiership success against Cliftonville since January 1, 2013.

And if Donnelly has his way, that staggering statistic could well continue.

"Winning breeds confidence and momentum," he said.

"It goes right through the team, the subs, the management and backroom staff. We have to keep it going.

"We owed Linfield one from our last defeat. They knocked us out of the Shield last month. We all pulled together, it was a great team performance."

Cliftonville got off to the perfect start, with David McDaid ramming a 12th minute penalty kick under the glove of goalkeeper Ross Glendinning following a needless handball offence by Mark Haughey.

But the Blues were back on terms nine minutes later, courtesy of an Andy Waterworth cracker. He blasted home a beauty from the edge of the box.

Baby-faced assassin Donnelly produced the coup de grace by plundering the winner 17 minutes from time following a sublime cross from the hard working Tomas Cosgrove.

"That's eight goals for the season - and I'm happy with that," beamed Donnelly. "I've now managed to equal last season's tally and it's only November, so hopefully there are more to come. Tomas did fantastically well. He's up and down that wing all day and he always seems to get me a goal. He cut in and sent in a great ball and thankfully I managed to put away.

"I may have got the winner, but defensively, I thought we were fantastic. We were missing Johnny Flynn (suspended) and Levi Ives (on international duty) - it was a big chunk out of our side, but Caoimhin Bonner and Fra Brennan came in and never put a foot wrong.

"Our fans, as always, were tremendous. That winner was for them."

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Donnelly also hailed the influence of manager Gerard Lyttle who, apart from that Shield loss to Linfield, is unbeaten over 90 minutes in his 12 games in charge.

"Gerard has been great since he came in," added Donnelly. "He knows the game inside out. He's a good man-to-man manager.

"I wasn't aware that Linfield hadn't beat us in the league now for so many games - it's an astonishing record. But you can never write them off. They may have dropped off the pace a little bit, but they have a brilliant squad. I'm sure they'll be up there at the finish.

"I've been at Cliftonville all my life. To win the league would absolutely be a dream, but we are not even thinking about that at this moment in time. We take one game at a time."

Donnelly insists he is still learning, but has a great mentor in McDaid.

"We are a young team, trying to improve on a weekly basis," he added. "I'm still learning the game, benefiting from the experience of the older heads.

"Davy keeps me right. He tells me when to make the runs and when to hold. I am leaning a lot from him."

Blues boss David Healy insists his team deserved better.

"Without being disrespectful to Cliftonville, I though we were worth at least a point," he said.

"Cliftonville are a good side with a good young manager that I have a lot of respect for. They have the players that can turn a game in a split second.

"The momentum was with us in the second half, but we didn't have the cutting edge in terms of the final ball of the final shot. That disappoints me.

"However, I can only take the positives out of the game. So we'll go again. We still have two big league games left this month plus a cup semi-final - away to both Glenavon and Portadown and Carrick in the cup. It's a big month, especially now coming off the back of a couple of defeats.

"Linfield are always there to be shot at if they are not winning games, I fully understand that. But I'm not going to criticise my players after that performance. I've told them to get the heads up."

LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Bates, Millar (Smyth, 75 mins), Ward, Clarke (Sproule, 84 mins), Kee, Mulgrew, Quinn (Burns, 75 mins). Unused subs: Deane, Hegarty.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Bonner, Curran, McDaid (Garrett, 80 mins), Donnelly, Brennan, Catney, Winchester (Knowles, 61 mins), Donnelly, Cosgrove. Unused subs: McMullan, George, Murray.

Man of the match: Jaimie McGovern

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)

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