Irish Premiership: Cliftonville come from behind to edge leaders Linfield in dramatic seven-goal thriller

Conor McMenamin
Conor McMenamin was a key figure in the Reds' win at Solitude

Cliftonville twice came from behind to secure a dramatic 4-3 win over Irish Premiership leaders Linfield in a seven-goal thriller at Solitude.

Jordan Stewart gave the Blues an early lead that was levelled by Michael McCrudden before Jamie Mulgrew restored Linfield's lead with a deflected shot.

Man-of-the-match Conor McMenamin then scored an impressive double, with Ryan Curran making it 4-2 on 89 minutes.

Kirk Millar scored an injury-time free-kick but the Reds ran out winners.

It was a first league victory over Linfield in almost three years for the Reds and, with Crusaders drawing against Portadown, it means the title holders' lead at the top of table remains four points.

McMenamin was crucial to Cliftonville's victory, producing an inspired 20-minute spell in the second half that twice saw him cut inside from the left to fire home inside the near post.

Jamie Mulgrew
Mulgrew scored one and created one for the Blues

Paddy McLaughlin's men had to work extremely hard to come out on top of a hugely entertaining encounter, and they deserve credit for playing their way into the match after a dominant start by the title holders.

They asserted their authority early on by closing the home side down high up the pitch and moving the ball well in possession.

Rory Hale had had an ambitious shot well wide before Stewart opened the scoring for the Blues with a confident finish on 12 minutes after fine work from captain Mulgrew.

The midfielder's pressing robbed McMenamin of possession and, after collecting a pass from Conor Pepper, Mulgrew slipped a clever ball through to Stewart who drilled across goalkeeper Aaron McCarey to find the far corner of the net.

Cliftonville responded well to going behind and were level just six minutes later thanks to great work from Hale, who ran on to a long Garry Breen ball into the channel and delivered a pinpoint low cross that McCrudden just about finished off the inside of the post from close range.

Rory Hale
McCrudden and Hale combined for Cliftonville's opening goal

Hale continued to work the visiting back four and slightly over-hit a through ball to Ryan Curran, and McMenamin then hit the side-netting from a McCrudden pass before the sides went in level at half-time.

After a slow start to the second half, Linfield went ahead again through a fortunate goal as a low strike from Mulgrew took a wicked deflection before finding the net in the 65th minute.

Their lead again only last eight minutes, as McMenamin collected a diagonal long ball on the left wing and cut inside Pepper and Mark Haughey before squeezing his shot past Chris Johns.

He put his side ahead for the first time with what was almost a carbon copy goal, again beating Pepper and finishing, before Ryan Curran showed great composure to side-foot home on 89 minutes.

Millar's injury-time free-kick was a spectacular curling effort that crept inside the post but it could not prevent the Blues, who brought the returning Joel Cooper off the bench in the second half, losing on the road in the league for the third time this campaign.

Cliftonville forward Ryan Curran: "That was a massive result for us and a great feeling. It is a long time since we beat Linfield in the league but our boys were excellent, different class.

"Massive credit especially to Conor McMenamin for scoring two great goals, he really was in a league of his own there for about 20 minutes in the second half. We were under pressure a lot at the start of the match as Linfield came at us, but we worked hard and played our way into the game.

"I feel the recent signings of Rory Hale and Aaron McCarey have definitely inspired us and give all the players a big lift to raise our game."

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