Cliftonville 1-0 Ballymena United
Cliftonville made it seven Danske Bank Premiership wins in a row as Ruaidhri Donnelly’s second-half strike was enough to see off Ballymena United and send the Reds to the top of the table.
After a bright start to proceedings at Solitude this afternoon, opportunities were hard to come by as the dogged visitors slowly but surely plugged the gaps to ensure that it was always likely to take something special to break the deadlock – which is precisely what Donnelly produced when his first-time finish fizzed into the bottom corner.
Thereafter, it was Cliftonville who had to show defensive discipline as Ballymena began to dominate proceedings but the hosts held on to bank another three crucial points.
Things might have been different had Joe Gormley been able to control an early delivery into the area before visiting keeper Ross Glendinning was forced into a diving save to palm away a Donnelly effort.
Cliftonville continued to press with a Gormley header appearing to skim the crossbar midway through the first half before, moments from the break, Donnelly crafted the best chance to date with a 20-yard drive which curled just wide. But he went one better on 51 minutes with what proved to be the winner after a great first touch allowed him to fire left-footed into the bottom corner beyond Glendinning’s reach.
Going behind seemed to spark Ballymena into life with Jonny Addis having a go from distance and then Ryan Mayse producing a save from Richard Brush.
Addis then sent the ball inches wide of the post before, later in the game, Jude Winchester squandered United’s best chance of an equaliser from an Andy McGrory pass only for the ball to go wide.
The visitors had one last chance to salvage something from the game but substitute Declan Carville couldn’t trouble Richard Brush with a header from around eight yards.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Bagnall, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, Doherty, Gormley, A Donnelly. Subs: Foster, Wilson, McKee, Dunne, Maguire, McMenamin (Gormley, 73 mins), Gorman
Match Sponsor: Mr Sean McClean
Matchball Sponsor: Bad Wolf Productions
Half Gate Draw
Winning Number: 117453