Cliftonville 2-1 Glenavon
In a proverbial game of two halves at Solitude, Cliftonville did just enough to claim all three Danske Bank Premiership points against Glenavon this afternoon.
Ahead through Aaron Donnelly’s first League goal for the Club, the Reds doubled their advantage thanks to a Ryan Curran header and would have taken a healthier lead into the break but for an inspired display from visiting keeper Craig Hyland.
After the interval, though, it was Cliftonville who were grateful to their custodian, with Aaron McCarey dominant in the air in the aftermath of the visitors reducing the arrears through a contentious Peter Campbell finish.
Having weathered an early storm that saw Greg Moorhouse blaze a glorious chance over the top, the Reds eased themselves into a rhythm and came close to breaking the deadlock when Daniel Kearns’ corner required Hyland to intervene with a vital touch.
From their next set play, however, the hosts got their angles spot on; Rory Hale coming to meet Donnelly’s short corner and returning the ball for the full-back to whip over the head of everyone in the middle and into the net.
Hyland then made a superb fingertip save when Ryan Curran met namesake Chris’ cross and, when the ball bounced back down off the bar, Paul O’Neill got too much on his follow-up and sent it over the top.
Soon later, great work from Daire O’Connor saw him feed Kearns on the left but the former Glenavon man took too long to get his shot away and the danger was averted.
On 26 minutes, Cliftonville’s dominance was rewarded with a second goal. Hale’s low blast brought another great stop out of Hyland but O’Neill was alert to the loose ball, which he seized upon before dinking over a delivery for Ryan Curran to head home.
A combination of Hyland and Robert Garrett then blocked a firm Jamie Harney header on the line before the Lurgan Blues came close to pulling one back when McCloskey’s long-range free-kick crashed against the bar.
The first-half ended with Hyland dealing with efforts from Kearns, O’Neill and Ryan Curran but any hopes that the one-way traffic would continue after the interval were extinguished on 54 minutes when Campbell headed in from virtually on the goal-line as long Cliftonville appeals for offside were waved away.
Despite Glenavon enjoying the bulk of possession, it was the hosts who carved out the next real opening; O’Connor doing superbly to nip past Calvin Douglas but his ball across the face of goal was just inches out of O’Neill’s reach and had too much power on it for Kearns to follow up at the back post.
The closing stages played out nervously for the Reds who, in addition to seeing McCarey deal with most deliveries into his box, had Kris Lowe to thank for heading a dangerous Danny Purkis effort away before the final blast of referee Raymond Crangle’s whistle signalled three vital points for the hosts.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Harney, C Curran, O’Connor (Coffey, 85 mins), R Curran (McCrudden, 90 mins), Donnelly, Bagnall, Hale, Lowe, Kearns (Doherty, 75 mins), O’Neill. Unused subs: Dunne, Foster, Casey, Teggart.