Cliftonville through to play-off final after seeing off Coleraine at Solitude
Cliftonville produced a fantastic late comeback to see off Coleraine 5-3 after extra time, to set up a winner takes all clash against Glentoran at Solitude on Saturday.
The Reds found themselves 2-0 and 3-1 down as the Bannsiders deservedly led thanks to a superb hat-trick from James McLauglin.
But a Ryan Curran penalty six minutes into stoppage time sent the game into extra time.
The hosts took control and sealed the win with further goals from Conor McMenamin and Levi Ives.
It was the Bannsiders who made the brighter start forcing two corners inside the first three minutes.
Richard Brush had to be quick off his line to deny Jamie Glackin after Ben Doherty had played him in on seven minutes.
Seconds later the Reds broke and Rory Donnelly dinked an effort wide of the far post.
But it was the visitors who broke the deadlock with nine minutes on the clock.
Glackin whipped a great cross into the box and McLaughlin got in front of the defender to head in off the crossbar.
They almost grabbed a second on 16 minutes as Josh Carson crossed from the byline, but it was just too high for Glackin at the back post.
Coleraine were well on top and causing Cliftonville a lot of problems.
Jamie McGonigle stung Richard Brush’s palms with a fierce drive inside the box on 28 minutes.
A minutes later the Bannsiders doubled their advantage and it was that man McLaughlin again as he powered home another header, this time from an Adam Mullan cross.
The hosts were given a lifeline on 34 minutes as Chris Johns’ poor clearance was fired forward by Ryan Curran.
Joe Gormley latched on to it and managed to force it home despite Johns’ best efforts.
The front man then lashed an effort wide from the edge of the box as the Reds pushed for an equaliser before the break.
The home side pushed on again after the restart with Donnelly firing over from Gormley’s pass.
Seconds later they combined again but it was the same outcome only this time Gormley lashed over.
Conor McMenamin should have done better before the hour when the ball broke to him in the box, but again he hurried his effort and fired over.
Cliftonville were ramping up the pressure and only some last gasp blocks by Graham Crown prevented them an equaliser.
Ben Doherty came to his side’s rescue midway through the half as he cleared Harney’s header off the line.
But remarkably it was the Bannsiders who scored again, and what a goal it was!
James McLaughlin unleashed an unstoppable overhead kick from the edge of the box.
However the hosts weren’t done just yet and up popped McMenamin to smash the ball home and reduce the deficit to one with 14 minutes to go.
There was late drama to come though as Cliftonville were awarded a 96th minute penalty after Curran had tussled with Carson.
The striker dusted himself down to tuck the ball in the corner and send the game into extra time.
That goal gave Paddy McLaughlin’s men a massive lift and they went in front for the first time in the game two minutes into extra time as Levi Ives squirmed a shot past Johns from the edge of the box.
The Reds made sure of the win in the 112th minute as McMenamin broke free, rounded Johns and slotted home to make it 5-3 and send Cliftonville into Saturday’s final.
It was a fantastic match in that both sides played their part in.