|Venue||Suffolk Road, Belfast, BT11 9RZ, Donegal Celtic Park|
|FC United lost 2-1 to Cliftonville in Belfast on Saturday afternoon in a close fought friendly for the inaugural Supporters’ Cup.|
The Reds had a half-time lead through a Michael Norton strike on 19 minutes which maintained the former Curzon Ashton forward’s goal per game record for FC United.
However, the Reds of Cliftonville showed their class in the second half and overturned United’s lead to win 2-1 courtesy of two strikes from Ciaran Caldwell.
It was United who started the game the more brightly of the two sides and Jerome Wright, who appeared to be playing in a supporting role to Norton rather than in his more familiar position on the wing, created the first chance of the game.
Wright broke between defenders before trying his luck with an audacious 30-yard swirling shot but the hosts goalkeeper John Connolly managed to pluck the ball to safety.
Just minutes later though United, playing in their new white away kit, had the ball in the back of the net and Wright was involved again. Connolly had to come out wide to the edge of his box to make a clearance but he fluffed it giving the ball straight to Wright. The United man calmly laid it off for Norton, who was never going to miss, rifling the ball past defender Declan O’Hara on the goal-line.
United were playing well and nearly doubled their lead in the 35th minute. Former Leeds United youngster Chris Ovington went on a good run before smashing the ball against the outside of the post from 25 yards out.
Moments earlier, Conal Burns nearly capitalised on a mix up between the otherwise very solid looking central defence partnership of Martin Parker and Scott McManus. However, the Irishman put his shot wide of the post.
Manager Karl Marginson made five half-time substitutions to give different players some valuable playing time. Unfortunately for United, the team that took to the field for the second half didn’t gel as well as the side in the first-half and within five minutes of the re-start the hosts had got an equaliser.
Ryan Catney’s run into the penalty area was picked out by a good ball and although substitute ’keeper Zach Hibbert prevented Catney from taking it round him, Caldwell was following up and he fired the loose ball home.
Cliftonville were beginning to take control of the match and United could only muster one shot on target throughout the entire second half which came from James Holden cutting inside from the right wing.
The Reds’ best chance came moments before Cliftonville took the lead. Barry Holland under-hit s backpass and the ever hardworking Ben Deegan slid in to steal the ball from Paul McKane. However, the substitute ’keeper did not panic and as Deegan tried to roll the ball across goal for Norton, McKane was back on his feet to collect it and end the danger.
The north-west Belfast side scored their winner with 18 minutes to go when Chris Scannell teamed up with Liam Boyce, who squared for Caldwell to steer the ball over the line.
Boyce produced a similar finish two minutes later as Caldwell turned provider but the linesman raised his flag for what seemed to be a foul in the build up. It proved to be the last action of the game as Cliftonville settled for 2-1 and successfully kept the team from Manchester at bay for the remaining last 15 minutes.