Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville 3 - Linfield 3: Blues taking action to keep Warren Feeney at Windsor

Tasty chip: Reds skipper George McMullan (left) laps up the adulation after getting the better of Linfield keeper Ross Glendinning
Tasty chip: Reds skipper George McMullan (left) laps up the adulation after getting the better of Linfield keeper Ross Glendinning
Warren Feeney

By Conor McLaughlin

The Linfield board will meet tonight in an attempt to thrash out a plan to keep Warren Feeney at Windsor Park.

The Blues boss is contemplating leaving to join Newport County as assistant to newly-appointed manager John Sheridan.

The English League Two strugglers can offer Feeney an attractive financial package and an opportunity to live closer to his family but Linfield will pull out all the stops to hold on to their manager.

One option is to offer Feeney a new deal, giving him longer term security.

Feeney's current contract expires in June and Newport can offer him significant wages.

Linfield have allowed Newport to open talks with their manager and those negotiations will take place this week.

After the thrilling 3-3 draw at Cliftonville on Saturday, the 34-year-old hinted that he was weighing up his options by refusing to state he was staying with the Blues.

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He said: "I'm focused on being manager of this great club. There has been a lot of speculation and we've read the stories but I'm focusing on being manager here."

Linfield remain the club Feeney supported as a boy and his dream of guiding the Blues to the title - they hold a two-point lead over Crusaders ­- is still on track.

His charges raced ahead thanks to goals from David Kee and Mark Haughey at Solitude before the Reds fought back in the second-half and Feeney added: "It was a great game.

"I thought it was a fantastic team performance in the first-half, possibly the best since I've been here.

"I'm obviously very disappointed to have thrown the two-goal lead away but pleased with the character we showed to battle back and equalise with 10 men." Cliftonville skipper George McMullan spurned the opportunity to put his side ahead when Linfield goalkeeper Ross Glendinning repelled his penalty kick, but McMullan's response was exquisite - an inch-perfect chip over both keeper and defender Mark Stafford to put the Reds in firm control of the contest.

The Blues, however, showed admirable battling qualities of their own when they made light of their numerical disadvantage in the wake of Sean Ward's red card to rescue a point through Aaron Burns' guided header.

An injury-time dismissal for home full-back Eamonn Seydak wasn't even the end of the story, with fellow Derry native Caoimhin Bonner - who had levelled in the aftermath of Donnelly beginning the Cliftonville fightback - also seeing red from referee Arnold Hunter following a post-match skirmish in the tunnel.

This was the match that had just about everything but, understandably, McMullan was particularly keen to eulogise about one aspect.

"When you come in at half-time 2-0 down, you're either dead and buried or you come out and fight," said the 34-year-old, who was introduced from the bench five minutes after the interval.

"The gaffer told me he wanted me to go out there and give everyone a kick up the backside. Fortunately enough, we'd just got the first goal back when I came on, so our backs were up.

"We got another one quickly and then, well, we'll not talk about the penalty but we'll talk about the chip!

"It was the only option I had."

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Bonner, Flynn, Knowles, Curran, McDaid, Garrett, M Donnelly, Seydak, Catney. Subs: McMullan (McGovern, 50 mins), Smyth, C Murray, M Murray (Curran, 87 mins), J Donnelly (McDaid, 23 mins).

LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, Bates, Ward, M Clarke, Kee, Mulgrew, Quinn. Subs: Deane, Callacher, Millar, Burns (Mulgrew, 79 mins), Sproule (Bates, 84 mins).

Man of the match: Martin Donnelly

Match rating: 10/10

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

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