Cliftonville beat Linfield to secure Irish Premiership title

Cliftonville secured their first league title since 1998 and the fourth in their history by beating Linfield 3-2 with a dramatic last-minute penalty.

Linfield twice came from behind to level but George McMullan coolly slotted home the crucial spot-kick to spark wild celebrations at Solitude.

"We knew we had the talent here and the potential. I'm delighted we're over the line," said Reds manager Tommy Breslin.

"Every time questions have been asked of us we have answered them well."

"We have battled all season and George (McMullan) was calmness personified when he stepped up to take the penalty.

Mark McAllister and Jaimie McGovern
Mark McAllister and Jaimie McGovern in action at Solitude

"Everything has fallen into place this season - we tightened up a bit at the back and the defence has completed the jigsaw.

"It helps when you have two strikers who can score 60 goals in a season between them too. The players deserve this and now we want to build on this next season" added the Reds' boss.

The Reds, who have lost just three Premiership matches so far this season, have an opportunity to complete a domestic treble when they face Glentoran in the Irish Cup final on 4 May.

The Reds got off to the best possible start when Liam Boyce's free-kick deflected off Stephen Garrett and past Ross Glendinning in the sixth minute.

Linfield had a number of chances to equalise but Mark McAllister mis-kicked in front of goal and saw another effort saved by the impressive Conor Devlin.

Philip Lowry hooked the ball over the bar from the edge of the box and was also denied by Devlin as the champions elect appeared nervy and unconvincing.

The home side could have extended their lead but Garrett just failed to get on the end of a cross from Boyce.

Liam Boyce
Liam Boyce scored his 33rd and 34th goals of the season

At the other end, Gault fired wide and McAllister passed up another chance when his weak shot was saved by Devlin.

David Jeffrey's side were on level terms three minutes after the break when Lowry struck a low right-foot drive into the bottom corner.

Boyce restored his side's advantage five minutes later by heading over the line after Marc Smyth headed across the face of goal.

McAllister then squandered yet another chance when he headed over the top but Carvill found the net in the 77th minute after Peter Thompson had flicked on a cross from the right.

With Crusaders beating Coleraine at Seaview, it looked like the title celebrations would have to be put on hold, but McMullan's penalty in added time, after Boyce had been bundled over in the area, sent the Reds into raptures.

Cliftonville will be presented with the Gibson Cup at their final home game of the season against Ballinamallard on 27 April.