Larne 1-2 Cliftonville
Joe Gormley and Conor McMenamin bagged the goals that saw Cliftonville complete a perfect Christmas week with a 2-1 victory over Larne at Inver Park this afternoon.
Ahead when Gormley nodded home after just 17 seconds, the Reds were pegged back by Jeff Hughes’ superb headed finish and were grateful to goalkeeper Richard Brush for a series of timely interventions as the hosts went in search of a second.
The decisive strike would come early in the second-half when Gormley teed up McMenamin who, having already netted winners against Coleraine and Crusaders this week, ensured another three points would come Cliftonville’s way with an emphatic right-footed finish into the top corner.
Many fans had barely taken their seats when Ryan Curran intercepted a poor Mark Randall pass to beat Chris Ramsey and find Gormley, who duly headed past Conor Devlin.
But Larne hit back just three minutes later when Randall made up for his error by crossing for Jeff Hughes to guide the ball past Richard Brush into the far corner.
Garry Breen then had a chance to restore Cliftonville’s lead but could only head wide from Conor McDermott’s corner while, at the other end, Johnny McMurray tested Brush with a 25-yard snapshot.
McMurray had another opportunity not long after that but this was blocked by McDermott with a later effort turned away by Brush.
Larne continued to create the clearer opportunities, coming close again when Randall, in a good position, was denied by the Reds’ custodian.
But, eight minutes into the second half, what proved to be Cliftonville’s winner came via the on-form McMenamin with a rifled finish into the top corner after Gormley had found him down the left.
Albert Watson almost responded for Larne just after the hour but his goalbound header was cleared off the line by Jamie Harney, while McMurray had a couple of later chances which Brush dealt with well.
On 84 minutes, the visitors came close to settling any lingering nerves when Curran almost extended their lead only to strike the base of an upright with a low 20-yard effort.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, A Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, McKee, Foster, Wilson (McMenamin, 77 mins), Maguire (Gormley, 82 mins), Rocks, McCurry.