Brush the hero for Cliftonville as they defeat Linfield at Windsor Park
Linfield 2 Cliftonville 2
(Cliftonville won 4-3 on pens)
Richard Brush was the penalty hero for Cliftonville as they reached the County Antrim Shield semi-finals with a dramatic victory over Linfield at Windsor Park.
Brush saved penalties from Blues teenager Dale Taylor and Niall Quinn to give the Solitude side a 4-3 shoot-out success following a fascinating 2-2 draw after extra-time.
Cliftonville led 2-0 thanks to well worked goals from Ronan Doherty and Ryan Curran before the champions surged back late on through 15-year-old substitute Taylor and Kirk Millar.
In the first half as can often be the case Joel Cooper looked lively for the Blues on the left flank though it was a cross from the right that almost led to the home side taking the lead when Quinn’s delivery beat everyone in the box but not the post. Reds goalkeeper Brush was grateful that the ball nestled in his arms after hitting the woodwork.
On 20 minutes David Healy’s side went close again. Andy Waterworth was licking his lips as a wicked Millar cross was fired in his direction only for the impressive Conor McDermott to make a fantastic challenge to clear the danger.
One intriguing aspect of the contest was watching two Irish League gladiators in midfield, respective captains Jamie Mulgrew and Chris Curran, endeavouring to encourage their team-mates with the desire that has been a hallmark of their careers.
A hallmark of Paddy McLaughlin’s career as manager to date has been the stylish football his teams play. That was evident in the 45th minute when the Reds broke the deadlock with a classy slide rule finish from Doherty following a clever one-two with Ryan Curran. What preceded it was a fantastic passing move that went on for what seemed an eternity. McLaughlin would have been delighted as his team kept the ball, probing away on the edge of the box until the opening came. In contrast Healy will have been wondering why no challenges were made by his side.
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Five minutes after the interval Waterworth’s header from Millar’s ball flashed wide. At the other end on 63 the lively Conor McMenamin fired straight at Gareth Deane after a confident run. Three minutes later McMenamin had the ball in the net but he was ruled offside with the Reds threatening to turn the screw.
With Cooper around, however, Linfield were still in it. In a sensational piece of play he glided past Reds defenders prior to crashing a belter from 20 yards against the post.
If the travelling Cliftonville support were gasping at that they were cheering themselves silly on 75 when Ryan Curran nodded home from close range. Curran’s opportunity was carved out by the brilliant Doherty, who provided a cross just begging to be put in the net.
The Blues were thrown a lifeline on 81 by 15-year-old substitute Taylor who brilliantly controlled a mishit shot from Ryan McGivern and fired in. Lifted by that the champions equalised on 86 with a stunning free-kick from Millar 25 yards out.
Chances came and went in extra time with substitute Joe Gormley missing the best one and Jamie Harney hitting the post for the Reds and Millar testing Brush for the Blues.
Then came the penalties with Cliftonville scoring through Ryan Curran, Chris Curran, Aaron Donnelly and McMenamin. Only Thomas Maguire missed for them.
Charlie Allen, Millar and Daniel Reynolds converted for the Blues but crucially Brush kept out Taylor and Quinn to send the Reds into the last four of the Shield and their supporters home happy.
Linfield: Deane, Quinn, Callacher, McGivern, Clarke, Millar, Mulgrew, Mitchell (Taylor 77), Cooper (Corbett 91), Waterworth (Allen 77), Shevlin (Reynolds 59). Subs not used: Moore, Larkin, Hume.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly (Maguire 98), Wilson (Gormley 89), Doherty, McMenamin, A Donnelly, Gorman. Subs not used: McKee, Foster, Rocks, Snodden, Hyland.
Referee: Evan Boyce
Belfast Telegraph Digital