Cliftonville 2-1 Ballymena United
Paul O’Neill was in the right place at the right time as Cliftonville overcame Ballymena United to make it back-to-back wins in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Ahead through a well taken Ryan Curran effort just past the half-hour, the Reds were pegged back when Shay McCartan capitalised on Garry Breen’s miscued clearance.
Breen would atone for that error, however, with the delightful 82nd minute cross that O’Neill converted from close range to ensure the hosts backed up Saturday’s defeat of Larne with another three point return.
The first chance of the night arrived after 15 minutes but visiting goalkeeper Ross Glendinning did well to stop Aaron Donnelly’s driven free-kick before opposite number Aaron McCarey comfortably gathered a Joshua Kelly attempt from distance.
Ballymena almost took the lead in controversial circumstances soon later when Conor Keeley’s foul on Breen – in almost exactly the same spot the defender was denied a stonewall penalty at the weekend – wasn’t picked up on by the officials, with Keeley thankfully heading wide of the mark.
The deadlock was broken when great perseverance from Barry Coffey saw him first charge Jim Ervin’s attempted clearance down and then beat the Sky Blues skipper to the loose ball and slipped possession in the direction of Ryan Curran, who composed himself before slotting home.
Cliftonville’s lead would last just 12 minutes, however, thanks to McCartan taking advantage of Breen’s miskick from Trai Hume’s cross.
Jude Winchester and Ben Wylie would send efforts over the top either side of half-time but, as the contest progressed, it was the Reds who looked more likely to get the next goal and Chris Curran’s 54th minute delivery into the area caused mild panic which Hume did well to just about deal with.
Substitute Daire O’Connor saw a couple of crosses drop into Glendinning’s hands and a good block from Wylie denied O’Neill with nine minutes remaining but there would be no denying the striker from the subsequent corner. Chris Curran produced the looping delivery and, though his initial header was cleared to the edge of the box, Breen took control of the ball and side-stepped Ross Redman before whipping in the cross which O’Neill nodded home from inside the six-yard box.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Breen, O’Reilly, C Curran, R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Hale (O’Connor, 56 mins), Lowe, O’Neill, Coffey (Kearns, 77 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Foster, Casey, O’Brien.