Irish Premiership: Ballinamallard 1-1 Cliftonville

Cliftonville's title hopes are dented as they draw 1-1 away to Ballinamallard United.

Premiership champions Cliftonville will go into the new year six points behind leaders Linfield after being held to a draw away to Ballinamallard on Tuesday.

Home skipper Mark Stafford headed the home side into a 53rd-minute lead after James McKenna's shot had come off the underside of the crossbar.

Cliftonville substitute Jay Donnelly pounced for a 74th minute equaliser.

Donnelly took advantage of a short back pass by John Currie to save the Reds from a third defeat in a row.

Both teams had chances to score again in the closing stages.

For Cliftonville, Jude Winchester had a shot deflected wide and from the corner Ryan Campbell cleared off the line from sub Tiarnan Mulvenna.

Then Ballinamallard's Johnny Lafferty saw his shot came off the crossbar.

It was two points dropped for Tommy Breslin's men. But Reds supporters may take heart from the fact that they were six points behind Linfield this time last year and went on to retain the Gibson Cup.

"I thought my team played brilliantly. I gave them a hard time after our defeat at Dungannon to put it mildly," said Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson.

"If you had offered me a point beforehand I would have taken it.

"But we are absolutely gutted not to have taken the three points. We hit the crossbar three times in the second half and gave away a terrible goal.

"It shows what we can do. If we had played like that against Dungannon they would not have lived with us."

Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin said: "We were probably the better team in the first half and were disappointed not to be leading.

"When they got the first goal it put pressure on us, but we battled to get level and were looking for the winner.

"It is a blow but we have no divine right to get three points every time."