Crusaders 1-2 Cliftonville
Conor McMenamin delivered a Derby Day double as Cliftonville savoured their first festive success at Seaview in 10 years.
Though David Cushley stroked Crusaders in front after just 90 seconds, McMenamin’s quick response indicated that the visitors weren’t prepared to simply roll over and accept a familiar Yuletide fate.
Unfortunate not to be ahead at half-time with Garry Breen and Joe Gormley going close, the Reds had to withstand heavy spells of pressure after the interval but were rewarded 11 minutes from time when McMenamin produced his second composed finish of the day to send the travelling support home in raptures.
The game got off to a frantic start with the Crues seizing the advantage with less than two minutes on the clock through Cushley, who fired into the bottom corner after Ross Clarke rolled the ball across from the right.
But, on six minutes, the Reds levelled when McMenamin showed great composure when he received the ball with his back to goal before turning to finish past Gerard Doherty.
Cliftonville might have edged in front midway through the first half but Declan Caddell was on hand to clear off the line after Breen appeared to have made the most of a mistake by Doherty, while Gormley was unfortunate with an effort that whistled across the face of goal.
McMenamin then threatened with a left foot effort only for the ball to flash just the wrong side of the post while, for the Crues, Jordan Owens was thwarted by a Jamie Harney block before the break.
Doherty did well to deny McMenamin at the near post early in the second-half before his opposite number, Richard Brush, was alert to Owens’ threat soon after at the other end.
Crusaders then thought they had regained the lead through Jarlath O’Rourke but his close range finish was ruled out for offside – which proved a pivotal moment in the game when, just over 10 minutes later, McMenamin claimed Cliftonville’s winner with a cleanly executed quality finish into the corner of the net after Chris Curran had made the most of hesitancy in the home backline.
Cliftonville: Brush, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran (Maguire, 90 mins), Foster, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley (Gorman, 83 mins), McMenamin (Wilson, 90 mins), A Donnelly. Unused subs: Dunne, McKee, Rocks, McCurry.