Cliftonville 5-0 Portadown
Michael McCrudden struck a hat-trick in addition to Daire O’Connor banking his first Cliftonville goals in this afternoon’s emphatic Danske Bank Premiership victory at Solitude.
The Reds got off to a bright start in the behind-closed-doors encounter when McCrudden bundled home at the second time of asking before doubling his personal tally when visiting keeper Scott Pengelly failed to gather a low drive.
The striker completed his treble from the penalty spot following a handling offence inside the area and, when the hosts were awarded a second spot-kick after McCrudden’s substitution, Joe Gormley saw his attempt saved by Pengelly, who was helpless to prevent O’Connor from converting the rebound.
O’Connor would then put the seal on a five-star display with a curling effort shortly afterwards as Cliftonville extended their winning streak against Portadown to 13 games without conceding a goal.
Gormley and Conor McMenamin each threatened early on and Aaron Donnelly saw a free-kick repelled by Pengelly before the deadlock was broken when McCrudden provided the finishing touch from McMenamin’s low cross.
Former Cliftonville defender Paul Finnegan stretched out a foot to block a McCrudden effort on the line before the striker claimed his second of the day when he reacted quickest to a loose ball and saw his shot escape Pengelly’s grasp.
Breen volleyed over the top from a corner at the end of the first-half while, early in the second, Gormley saw a header gathered by the keeper.
The Reds’ third came when McCrudden converted from the spot after Stephen Teggart had handled a Chris Curran drive, with Gormley soon later seeing an effort ruled out for offside and Seanna Foster off target with a left-footed attempt.
Pengelly then denied both McMenamin and McCrudden before a combination of Finnegan and Adam McCallum sent Gormley tumbling inside the area and, though the striker picked himself up to take the resulting penalty, he saw his kick turned against the post by Pengelly, who was powerless to prevent O’Connor from converting the rebound.
O’Connor would then complete the scoring with a precise effort from distance, which he steered into the bottom corner with his right foot.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott (Casey, 69 mins), Breen, O’Reilly, C Curran, McCrudden (O’Connor, 78 mins), McMenamin, Foster, Donnelly (Doherty, 62 mins), Bagnall, Gormley. Unused subs: Dunne, R Curran, McKee, Maguire.