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Football: STRANNEY'S REDSCUE ACT; Lisburn Distillery Cliftonville Hero keeper lucky not to be sent off.

Byline: ALEX McGREEVY

LISBURN DISTILLERY boss Paul Kirk believes Cliftonville survived his team's late surge because goalkeeper Paul Stranney remained on the pitch.

The flamboyant Reds net-minder was alleged to have used foul and abusive language toward supporters when 10 minutes remained of this stalemate.

Stranney was booked by referee Stephen Weatherall on advice of his assistant and eight minutes later superbly denied striker Sean Armstrong, stealing the ball from the striker's feet as he prepared to shoot.

It was one of a number of outstanding save Stranney made at New Grosvenor to ensure Cliftonville remained unbeaten and at the top Group Four of the competition alongside Distillery.

Kirk said: Stranney did what he had to do. He made a great save from Gareth McKeown in the first-half and a good save from Andy Kilmartin.

"He also came and took a couple of long throws to take the pressure off them but he was lucky to stay on the pitch because he was using foul and abusive language toward supporters.

"That's a sending-off offence because that's incitement and he's a lucky lad to have stayed on the pitch. You can't abuse the crowd from the field of play because that's an automatic red card."

Stranney, who has now kept back-to-back clean sheets, has already won one public spat with a manager, former Reds boss Liam Beckett, who recently left the club.

He replied: "Kirker must have been drinking something at half-time if he thinks I should have been sent-off."Every time the ball went out of play they were stealing yards so they could launch throw-ins into the box," he said.

"I told the linesman that their player was taking the ball forward and the crowd started slabbering to me, so [the linesman] decided to make a name for himself."

The Co Down-born goalkeeper is confident that Cliftonville can progress to the quarter-finals of the CIS Cup.

He was a winner of it two years ago and there is a greater prize this time around with the eventual champions gaining entry to the cross-border Setanta Cup and a minimum pounds 17,000 windfall.

"There's the added incentive of getting into the Setanta Cup. We have done well in this competition having won it and reached a semi-final over the last two seasons.

"We are bit more dogged than we have been and we haven't lost yet. That makes training something to look forward to and the games can't come soon enough." Ironically, after creating several goal scoring chances, it was Cliftonville who came closest to finding the net late in the game.

Against the run of play defender John O'Loughlin displayed the craft of a natural striker when he set off on a run up the left wing, cut inside a defender and drove his thunderous shot against the underside of the bar.

It was the only time in the game, with just five minutes remaining, that Distillery goalkeeper Phillip Matthews broke sweat.

Sean Armstrong, a close-season signing from Coleraine, looked sharp in attack for the Whites and almost gave them the lead after a lethargic start to the game.

Armstrong and tricky strike partner Francis Murphy kept Stranney busy, the latter forcing the Reds stopper to turn a fierce volley wide of his post in the 15th minute.

Murphy, tormenting the visiting defence, then fed Armstrong inside the goalmouth but the big hitman had his shot parried to safety by the Stranney.

LISBURN DISTILLERY: Matthews, McKeown, Thompson, McCann, Buchanan, Muir, Kilmartin, Dickson, Armstrong, McLaughlin, Murphy.

CLIFTONVILLE: Paul Stranney, Liam Fleming, Ronan Scannell, Mulvenna, O'Hara, O'Loughlin, Cleary, McConnell, Holland, Downey, Friars. Ref: S Weatherall.

CAPTION(S):

EYES WIDE SHUT: Cliftonville's Keith Mulvenna and Lisburn's Damien McLaughlin engaged in aerial combat; MAKING A MARK: Mark Holland sees his cross blocked; COUNT ON KEITH: Cliftonville's Keith Mulvenna attempts to break the deadlock
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 21, 2005
Words:640
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