Date: 16 August 2014
Competition: NIFL Reserve League
Result: Cliftonville Olympic 4-2 Institute II
After a fairly tame first period this game erupted with a flurry of goals in a hectic fifteen minute spell which saw the ball hit the back of the net an incredible six times.
Cliftonville almost had the perfect start when a curled effort rattled against the post after only two minutes as the visitors struggled with the pace and movement of a lively attack from ‘the Reds.’
It took a good ten minutes before Stute found their feet and from that point both teams traded blows in an entertaining game. Most of the play was compressed in the middle-third of the pitch, with the home side posing the greater threat on goal until Stute finally threatened at the other – Ryan Varma letting fly from distance, forcing the keeper to gather at full stretch after thirty-five minutes.
Three minutes later, ex-Newbuildings United talisman Ricky-Lee Dougherty introduced himself to the game, showing good strength going forward, he turned a defender in order to unleash an effort at goal, but it flashed just over.
Institute were enjoying a bright spell and really should have taken the lead minutes before the break when Lee Toland broke down the left but his pinpoint cross glanced wide when Dougherty latched onto it within close range.
Ten minutes into the second period Toland crashed a great free-kick off the crossbar after Gary Henderson had been upended on the edge of the box and four minutes later, from similar distance, another effort crept past the post with the keeper beaten.
Cliftonville quickly raced up the other end in an attempt to utilise the counterattack – but Stute number one Martin Gallagher made a smart save when left one-on-one with an attacker.
Unfortunately he could not repeat the feat a minute later as ‘the Reds’ broke clear again, and this time there was no preventing the inevitable as the striker’s effort nestled into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later they doubled their lead when another good move down the left resulted in a fine cross and the ball was turned home from six yards.
Immediately the Sky Blues pulled a goal back when Dougherty won possession on the half-way line, brushing off a defender, racing clear, and coolly slotting the ball into the bottom corner from just outside the penalty area.
The home side restored their two goal advantage on seventy minutes when a shot from distance took a wicked deflection off defender John Curran, leaving Gallagher wrong-footed and helpless as the ball sneaked inside his near post. Cliftonville then made it 4-1 after poor marking from a corner saw the ball headed back across goal before being bundled home.
To their credit Stute refused to give up and gained some hope in the last ten minutes when Henderson’s pass set Aaron Porter clear and the youngster showed great composure to lift the ball over the keepers head and into the far corner, despite the last ditch attempt of a defender to clear.
Mark McGroarty almost set up a grandstand finish but, after a fine solo run, his effort brushed the wrong side of the upright.
The Stute boys were outdone by a strong and physical Olympic side but battled gamely and, on another day, could easily have brought home a share of the spoils.
Institute: Gallagher, McGroarty, Toland, Curran, C. McLaughlin, Henderson, Varma, Crawford, Dougherty, Porter, Hume.
Subs: Armstrong, Higgins, Duffy.