Cliftonville 1-0 Larne
Ronan Doherty’s first League goal for Cliftonville earned all three Danske Bank Premiership points against Larne at Solitude this afternoon.
The midfielder’s powerful fourth minute finish proved the difference between the sides as the Reds put a recent run of frustrations behind them to register a second clean sheet in three outings.
The decisive moment came when Chris Curran caught Graham Kelly in possession by a combination of Rory Hale and Chris Curran and, though the latter’s cross fell just behind intended recipient Hale, Doherty was on hand to slam home.
Ryan Curran then drew a save out of Conor Devlin with a fiercely hit effort before Aaron Donnelly sent a free-kick – which, thanks to the windy conditions, he had four or five attempts at striking – just wide of the mark.
At the other end, Cliftonville keeper Aaron McCarey palmed a Mark Randall attempt away before comfortably gathering the follow-up from Ronan Hale, whose brother Rory was next to threaten with a long-range attempt that whistled just past the angle of post and crossbar.
A 25th minute blast from Randall was blocked by Ryan O’Reilly before the visitors had a Jeff Hughes goal disallowed for offside from Randall’s free-kick delivery.
As Larne started to really find their groove, Dylan Mottley-Henry came agonisingly close to converting a Hale cross before Johnny McMurray skewed a shot wide.
There was much less to report after the interval but the Reds should have been awarded a 56th minute penalty when Garry Breen was cleaned out by Albert Watson as he attempted to get on the end of Hale’s corner but, to the astonishment of all inside the ground, neither referee Keith Kennedy nor his assistant Adam Jeffrey spotted the foul.
A superb reaction stop from McCarey prevented Dean Jarvis from levelling things up with a volley before Hughes steered a low drive across the face of goal and behind as Larne piled on the pressure in search of the goal that would get them back in the contest.
Given Cliftonville’s propensity for conceding in the last minute in recent weeks, there was a detectable nervousness when five minutes of additional time were signalled but the home defence continued to stand firm in the face of a series of balls being tossed into the box – although they did benefit from a last-gasp let-off when Hughes, seemingly unaware of quite how much space he had been afforded, touched an attempt wide from Conor McKendry’s cross.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Breen, O’Reilly, C Curran, R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty (Coffey, 70 mins), Hale, Lowe, O’Neill (O’Connor, 86 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Foster, Casey, Kearns.