Two Joe Gormley strikes in the first-half put Cliftonville on course for victory over Carrick Rangers at a rain-lashed Solitude this afternoon.
The striker teamed up with Rory Donnelly to put the finishing touch on an eye-catching 20th minute move before doubling the Reds’ advantage just before the interval when he followed up after Donnelly had failed to convert following Jude Winchester’s superb defence-splitting pass.
Carrick’s backline was cut open again 11 minutes before the end when Chris Curran threaded substitute Daniel Hughes through and he showed good composure to touch the ball round Harry Doherty before touching into the empty net.
Though both Donnelly and Gormley had threatened early breakthroughs, it was former Reds youngster Andrew Mooney who almost found the net at the other end with a curling attempt that goalkeeper Brian Neeson had to watch all the way.
Garry Breen and Gormley were then denied by visiting stopper Doherty but the latter wasn’t to be denied and duly got on the scoresheet when, after a smart step-over, he picked up a return pass from Donnelly, skipped past the challenge of Chris Morrow and dispatched the ball into the bottom corner.
The same player doubled Cliftonville’s advantage just before the interval when he curled home a beauty from the edge of the area after Doherty had denied Donnelly at the end of a delightful passing sequence.
And Gormley thought he had his hat-trick just before the hour when he converted a Donnelly delivery from close range, only for an offside flag to cut his celebrations short.
That would prove the striker’s final contribution, with Daniel Hughes coming on in his place and it was the sub who completed the afternoon’s scoring late on when, after Curran had dispossessed Liam Hassin, Hughes had the entire attacking half to himself and he made no mistake in getting the better of Doherty to wrap things up.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Winchester, Gormley, J Donnelly, Cosgrove, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Hughes (Gormley, 60 mins), Garrett (McGovern, 73 mins), M Donnelly, Lavery (Cosgrove, 78 mins).
Sean Graham Man of the Match: Joe Gormley
Half Gate Draw Number: 67892