Carrick Rangers 0-1 Cliftonville
Rory Donnelly’s first-half strike was sufficient to book Cliftonville’s place in the League Cup Semi Finals at the expense of Carrick Rangers.
A match that will not live long in the memory was lit up by Donnelly’s well-taken 31st minute strike, which made it four wins in a row without a single goal conceded.
That particular statistic was preserved thanks in no small part to a superb late save from Brian Neeson, whose one-handed stop to turn the ball onto the crossbar denied his former employers and ensured the Reds made progress to the next round.
The hosts carved out the first-half chance of the contest, but former Cliftonville striker Andrew Mooney couldn’t get a telling connection on Eamonn McAllister’s wicked delivery while, at the other end, Ross Lavery was unable to apply the finish to Jaimie McGovern’s cross.
Joe Gormley came close to making the breakthrough on 24 minutes when his fierce strike was turned onto the post by goalkeeper Harry Doherty, who reacted quickly to claim the loose ball before the Reds’ frontman could pounce on the rebound.
It wasn’t long after that, however, that Cliftonville pulled in front. Chris Curran did well to find a bit of space for himself on the right and, when he pulled the ball back, Donnelly was on hand to steer it into the bottom corner.
Donnelly threatened with a header before the interval and, after the turnaround, brother Jay dragged an effort wide after being teed up by Gormley.
Liam Hassin blazed over for Carrick and Rory Donnelly sent another header wide but, as the hosts gained more and more of a foothold in proceedings, it was the Reds’ defence that was forced to stand up in the face of pressure and, on the one occasion an opening did present itself, Mark Surgenor saw his blistering strike turned onto the woodwork by Neeson.
That proved to be the last chance of note as Cliftonville held on to reach the last four of a competition they enjoyed a spell of dominance in between 2013 and 2016.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Winchester, Gormley, J Donnelly, Lavery, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Hughes (for Gormley), Garrett (for Lavery), M Donnelly, A Donnelly.