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Martin Murray puts a big dent in Blues' tilt at title


Level pegging: Cliftonville’s Martin Murray celebrates after scoring his team’s equaliser against Linfield

Level pegging: Cliftonville’s Martin Murray celebrates after scoring his team’s equaliser against Linfield

Kevin Scott / Presseye

Level pegging: Cliftonville’s Martin Murray celebrates after scoring his team’s equaliser against Linfield

Cliftonville's Martin Murray took on the super-sub role as the Reds claimed a dramatic point from their Danske Premiership clash with Linfield at Windsor Park.

Warren Feeney's Blues appeared primed to pick up three crucial points, which would have hauled them to within one point of leaders Crusaders as first half goals Aaron Burns and Jamie Mulgrew had them in total control.

Reds chief Tommy Breslin pulled a masterstroke by introducing Murray for the struggling James Knowles with 18 minutes to go.

He had visitors level within 10 minutes and, in fact, he came within inches of completing a stunning hat-trick.

The result means the Reds now trail Crusaders by 11 points, with the Blues three behind.

"I have to praise the character of the team," said Breslin.

"I made the substitution, hoping to change the course of the game. Marty gave the that little bit of spark we needed.

"Our second half performance was great; we are just lacking consistency over the 90 minutes."

Joe Gormley went close for the Reds after only two minutes when his rasping free kick fizzed past the post with goalkeeper Ross Glendinning scampering across his goal, but Linfield stormed to the other end with new signing Glenn Belezika picking up a neat flick from Sammy Morrow before stinging the hands of Peter Cheerie.

The home fans were celebrating on six minutes when referee Andrew Davey punished Jaimie McGovern's crude challenge on Andy Waterworth and Burns stepped up to ram an unstoppable spot kick past Peter Cherrie for his 15th goal of the season.

Ross Clarke then took off an a sensational sole dash, hurdling challenge after challenge before fizzing his shot inches past the post.

Moments late Belezika again ventured forward, picking up a loose clearance on the edge of the box following Grant McCann's in-swinging corner, but fortunately for the Reds, McGovern managed to get in a timely block.

The Blues faithful were again dancing with delight on 27 minutes after Mulgrew's goal. Burns and Niall Quinn, sliced open the Reds down the left and when the ball was whipped to the back post, the stand-in captain popped up to send a header past Cherrie.

Waterworth missed a great chance to put the Blues out of sight eight minutes before the break. He gobbled up a botched clearance from Tomas Cosgrove and with Cherrie hopelessly out of position, he could only lob wide.

Cliftonville had only their second effort of the game seconds before the interval when Jay Donnelly caught the Blues defence napping, but Glendinning was out like a flash to deflect the shot for a corner.

Linfield stormed from the blocks at the start of the second half with Clarke threading a great pass to Mulgrew, who waltzed past two challenges before firing straight at Cherrie.

The introduction of Murray on 72 minutes turned this crazy game on its head.

He was only on the pitch three minutes when he latched onto a Gormley pass and held off the challenge from Sean Ward before lofting the ball over the head of the stranded Glendinning.

He almost did it again seconds later, but this time his effort grazed the post, but the visiting supporters couldn't believe their eyes when with only two minutes left, Gormley made ground on the left before crossing and Murray was again first to react, ramming the ball home.

Waterworth had a great chance to it win for Linfield deep into injury time, but Cherrie saved the Reds by making a wonder stop.

Belfast Telegraph