Linfield 2-0 Cliftonville
A disastrous start to the second-half saw Cliftonville fall to defeat in this evening’s behind-closed-doors Danske Bank Premiership tie with Linfield at Windsor Park.
After an opening period when goalkeeper Richard Brush had rarely been exerted, the Reds were slow out of the traps after the interval with both Shayne Lavery and Kirk Millar netting in quick succession to give the hosts an advantage they never surrendered.
The Blues started the game on top but, after weathering an early storm, Cliftonville began to enjoy greater bouts of possession and Joe Gormley saw a vicious snapshot very well turned behind by goalkeeper David Walsh.
A combination of Walsh and defender Conor Pepper stopped a goalbound Conor McMenamin drive before the first-half ended with the Reds forcing a couple of set-pieces, with Gormley’s attempt to catch Walsh out with a quick free-kick dealt with by Jimmy Callacher.
Keen to build on that and generate further momentum after the break, Cliftonville instead found themselves chasing the game after a number of lapses in defensive concentration.
Though Seanna Foster did well to stop Jordan Stewart finding the net from Millar’s delivery, the deadlock would be broken as a consequence of the failure to fully deal with the resulting set piece; the ball eventually falling Lavery’s way and he produced a fierce first-time finish into the bottom corner.
Millar would then seize on some hesitancy at the back to double the Blues’ lead, showing neat feet to skip past Brush and shoot beyond both Garry Breen and Conor McDermott on the line.
While McMenamin was a constant menace on the left, the closest the Reds came to reducing the arrears with a strike that would surely have set up a grandstand finale came when Ronan Doherty saw an effort deflected onto the crossbar by fellow substitute Thomas Maguire.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, O’Reilly (Doherty), C Curran, McCrudden (R Curran), McMenamin, Foster, Donnelly, Bagnall, Gormley (Maguire). Unused subs: Dunne, O’Connor, McKee, Casey.