Cliftonville 3-1 Carrick Rangers
Conor McMenamin toasted a treble as 10-man Cliftonville returned to winning ways in the Danske Bank Premiership with a 3-1 victory over Carrick Rangers at Solitude this evening.
After pulling ahead on seven minutes, the Reds saw Liam Bagnall sent off following a challenge on Kyle Cherry but the hosts did not let their numerical advantage count against them and duly doubled their lead when McMenamin struck again on the stroke of half-time.
Though the Gers pulled one back through Michael Smith and looked set to level only for Richard Brush to produce a stunning save to deny Chris Rodgers, Cliftonville made sure of things when Harry Doherty’s foul on Joe Gormley earned a penalty which McMenamin stepped up to convert.
The Reds made three changes from the side that got the better of Rathfriland Rangers on Irish Cup duty at the weekend and it was one of the fresh faces who almost broke the deadlock on six minutes; McMenamin scrambling just wide from Conor McDermott’s corner.
The same duo combined with more effective consequences less than 60 seconds later, however, when McDermott’s free-kick was plucked out of the air by McMenamin, who turned before stroking the ball past the committed Doherty.
Bagnall’s 29th minute foul on Cherry – which saw both players aggressively challenge for possession in the middle of the park – was deemed sufficient for instant dismissal by referee Jamie Robinson, who surprisingly took no action against the Carrick players for their own involvement in the melee which followed.
Despite that setback, the hosts made it 2-0 when Gormley dispossessed Mark Surgenor and teed McMenamin up to finish.
There was little to report after the interval until Smith headed Lee Chapman’s dinked delivery home and, with fresh wind in their sails, the visitors looked set to level through Rodgers only for the defender to see his powerful point-blank header miracously turned against the woodwork by Brush.
Within 90 seconds of that intervention, Gormley had been sent sprawling inside the area by Doherty, allowing McMenamin – whose pass had set the striker in the clear – to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McDermott, Ives, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Harkin, Foster (McMenamin, 87 mins), McCrudden (Gormley, 89 mins), Rocks (Doherty, 90 mins), McCurry.