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Tight rein

Cliftonville 1-0 Institute

A first-half header from Ruaidhri Donnelly was enough for Cliftonville to take full points against Institute at Solitude this afternoon.

Despite dominating possession, the Reds – who saw a Ryan Curran penalty saved after the interval – were unable to add to their tally against a dogged Stute side and were in the end forced to settle for the narrowest margin of victory to make it three wins and clean sheets in succession.

While Cliftonville began brightly, it was the visitors who carved out the first real scoring chance when Aidan McCauley ghosted into the box but found his shot instantly smothered by goalkeeper Richard Brush.

Soon later, Conor Tourish produced a superb block to stop a fierce Joe Gormley blast from travelling goalward before Cormac Burke twice went close for Stute; first striking over the top before clipping the crossbar with a smart free-kick from distance.

On 41 minutes, however, the ball was in the net at the other end when, after Conor McMenamin had sprayed the ball wide left, Curran dug out a cross from which an unmarked Donnelly planted his header past Paul Wells.

Gormley should have made it 2-0 just before the interval but his attempted lob from Conor McDermott’s forward pass was comfortably gathered by the keeper.

The Reds began the second-half with greater tempo and Jamie Dunne’s 51st minute trip on Donnelly afforded Curran the opportunity to double his side’s lead from the penalty spot only for Wells to make the save before picking himself up to seize upon the loose ball.

Within minutes, Brush had produced a fine reaction stop to deny Dean Curry an equaliser ahead of substitute Jamie McIntyre rifling a strike across the face of goal.

Cliftonville almost set up a more comfortable finale on 80 minutes when Gormley threaded McMenamin through but, after seeing the keeper repel his initial effort, he was only able to steer his rebound against the bar before Institute cleared the danger.

Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Ives, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin. Subs: Dunne, Garrett, Foster, Bagnall (R Curran, 63 mins), Maguire, A Donnelly (Ives, 8 mins), Gorman (R Donnelly, 89 mins).

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