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Larne 0-0 Cliftonville

Cliftonville’s first goalless draw of the season saw a battling point earned against Larne at Inver Park.

Ryan Curran and Ryan O’Reilly went closest for the visitors, who were grateful to goalkeeper Aaron McCarey for some smart first-half saves on a day that saw sub stopper Declan Dunne dismissed from the bench following an altercation with Larne’s Andrew Mitchell.

The first opening of the day fell to the home side’s Graham Kelly, who wasn’t able to make telling contact on an awkwardly-bouncing ball that Jeff Hughes had knocked into the goalmouth; McCarey reacting well to preserve the deadlock.

Almost instantly, Curran sent a half-volley against the woodwork after Daire O’Connor had done well to dig out a cross from the byline.

On 26 minutes, Rory Hale’s curling corner kick delivery was met at the back post by O’Reilly, who was unable to turn his header goalward, while a superb flying stop from McCarey kept Martin Donnelly’s name off the scoresheet.

The Cliftonville keeper then repelled attempts from John Herron and Ronan Hale as the hosts enjoyed a strong finish to the first-half while, after the break, Ronan Doherty sent a snapshot just over the top from outside the box.

Just past the hour, a fine goal-line block from O’Reilly kept Davy McDaid at bay before a spot of controversy that ended with Reds substitute Dunne being sent off by referee Ian McNabb.

O’Connor did well to get away from Mitchell right in front of the visiting dugout and, as play continued, the Larne midfielder became embroiled in a confrontation with members of the Cliftonville bench. When the dust settled, the referee consulted with his Fourth Official and produced a red card for Dunne but, curiously, only a yellow for Mitchell.

The introduction off Paul O’Neill and Daniel Kearns saw the visitors step things up in the final 20 minutes and, though they enjoyed greater possession in the final third, were never able to conjure up anything that might have led to the claiming of all three points.

The same could be said of Larne, though, who grew frustrated up against a resolute Cliftonville backline – albeit one that was relieved to see an eye-catching strike from Hughes bounce just wide of the post in the closing minutes.

Cliftonville: McCarey, O’Reilly, Harney, C Curran (O’Neill, 65 mins), O’Connor (Kearns, 73 mins), R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Doherty, Hale, Lowe. Unused subs: Dunne, McCrudden, Foster, Casey.