Institute 6-4 Cliftonville
INSTITUTE really produced a Christmas cracker for everyone who attended their encounter against Cliftonville.
The home side's first half performance and their three goals, are all goal of the season contenders, in fact they wouldn't look out of place in either the La Liga, Serie A or the English Premier League.
However their achilles heel came back to haunt them as they conceded four goals and looked very nervy at the back throughout the game.
Paddy McLaughlin made two changes to his side which last played a few weeks ago with Jake Morrow and Jamie Dunne coming in for the suspended Caoimhin Bonner and Aaron Jarvis, while the Reds gave a start to Garry Breen, Conor McDonald, Liam Bagnail and Ryan Curran.
Institute got off to the perfect start as they took the lead on three minutes as a super passing move ended with Joe McCready stepping over Ronan Wilson's cross, to allow Michael McCrudden to fire home, low into Brian Neeson's bottom right hand corner.
Cliftonville levelled things 10 minutes later as Liam Bagnall's right wing cross deflected off Dunne and caught out 'Stute and the alert Rory Donnelly, made no mistake heading home from close range.
Just after the mid-way point of the half Reds' left-back Levi Ives, burst into the home side's half, before seeing his 20 yard drive fizzed just wide.
Institute regained the lead in stunning fashion as McCrudden added his second on 32 minutes when Morrow's tremendous chip pass found the 'Stute captain, who controlled the ball before volleying home from close range, giving Neeson no chance.
Amazingly the home side added a third in superb fashion again, as a quick passing move ended with Ronan Doherty's first time through ball played in McCready, he raced clear and with only Neeson to beat, he blasted home.
Cliftonville started the second half with a bit more purpose and they netted twice in the space of the five minutes.
Firstly on 48 minutes as Gormley’s left wing cross found Donnelly at the back post, who out-jumped Colm McLaughlin to head home. Then five minutes later the Reds were level as that man Gormley headed home after Ryan Curran’s left wing centre had picked out the front man.
The Belfast men should have went in front on 60 minutes when Donnelly was upended by Gallagher inside the box, but the keeper redeemed himself keeping out the Reds striker’s resulting penalty, before things went really crazy.
The home side broke clear from the resulting penalty and Cliftonville keeper Neeson's heavy challenge on Doherty meant referee Lee Tavinder awarded his second spot kick inside a minute and he also red carded the Reds keeper for the two footed lunge, as Barry Gray's men didn’t have a substitute keeper on the bench, centre-back Jamie Harney went into goal and he could do nothing as McCrudden completed his hat-trick, with the resulting spot-kick.
On 67 minutes Institute added a fifth as McCrudden slotted the ball across to McCready, who side footed home past Harney from close range, as the Solitude men were really at sixes and sevens at this stage.
Institute scored a sixth on 71 minutes as McCrudden broke the offside trap to latch onto another clever first time pass by Doherty and calmly guided the ball past an out-rushing Harney.
To their credit Cliftonville never gave up and Donnelly completed his hat-trick seven minutes later, finishing from a tight angle, as he skipped away from a few challenges before turning the ball home and completing a memorable Christmas encounter.
Institute: Gallagher, D Curry, Scoltock, McLaughlin; Wilson, Harkin, Morrow (S Curry 85), Doherty, Dunne (Brown HT); McCrudden, McCready (Moorehead 88).
Cliftonville: Neeson, Bagnail, Breen, Harney, Ives; Garrett, C Curran, McDonald, R Curran (McNulty 73), Donnelly, Gormley.
Referee: Lee Tavinder