Cliftonville 3-0 Warrenpoint Town
Ryan Curran bagged a double in addition to Paul O’Neill scoring on his home debut as Cliftonville overcame Warrenpoint Town at Solitude this evening.
The only blot on the hosts’ night was the 70th minute dismissal of Jamie Harney, who was sent off by referee Steven Gregg for confronting Danny Wallace in the aftermath of his challenge on Chris Curran which earned the Town defender a red card of his own.
After seeing a third minute penalty appeal waved away when O’Neill appeared to be bundled over by Wallace as he attempted to get on the end of a Daniel Kearns cross, Cliftonville were forced to soak up some pressure during a period that saw both Brandon Doyle and Adam Evans go close.
The deadlock was broken on 23 minutes, however, when O’Neill picked up possession in a wide area and laid it back for Aaron Donnelly, whose near post cross was nodded past Gabriel Sava by Curran.
Another Donnelly delivery almost saw Harney double the Reds’ advantage before half-time, while the second period began with Point skipper Fra McCaffrey hooking an attempt against the post.
Soon later, O’Neill saw a low drive blocked by Sava but the striker would make no mistake when the duo next went head to head; his finish making it 2-0 at the end of a slick 60th minute passing sequence involving Daire O’Connor, Liam Bagnall, Ronan Doherty and Ryan Curran.
The visitors twice went close to reducing the arrears in quick succession with Doyle first having a cross headed out from beneath the crossbar by Harney, who then nodded a vicious drive by the same player off the line.
Harney’s involvement would, however, come to a premature conclusion when he got involved in an altercation with Wallace after Chris Curran had been caught in the face. After showing the Town man a straight red card, referee Gregg duly dished out the same punishment to Cliftonville’s number 6.
Having started the night with only two recognised defenders in his back four, Paddy McLaughlin promptly introduced Seanna Foster from the bench and he operated at full-back, with Chris Curran stepping into a midfield role and Liam Bagnall dropping back to partner the impressive Kris Lowe at centre-half.
The Reds were forced to soak up significant pressure in the spell which followed, but goalkeeper Aaron McCarey was relatively untroubled behind a patched-up defence that helped preserve a clean sheet when Bagnall nodded another Doyle blast over the top.
From the resulting corner, an incisive breakaway saw Cliftonville wrap the win up when O’Connor put Ryan Curran in the clear and he stepped round the isolated Sava before rolling the ball into the empty net from distance.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Harney, C Curran (Coffey, 85 mins), R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Hale, Lowe, Kearns (O’Connor, 57 mins), O’Neill (Foster, 74 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Casey, Teggart.