Cliftonville 2-1 Coleraine
Jamie Harney and Paul O’Neill were on the scoresheet as Cliftonville got the better of Coleraine at Solitude this afternoon.
Central defender Harney broke the deadlock with a powerful header just before he interval and O’Neill doubled the Reds’ advantage when he squeezed a shot over the line from a 62nd minute corner.
The Bannsiders halved the deficit with a Ben Doherty penalty soon later but Eoin Bradley’s dismissal hindered their chances of extending their unbeaten run to 18 matches.
The visitors started sharply and forced a series of early corners but it was Cliftonville who fashioned the game’s best chance; O’Neill bringing a smart save out of Gareth Deane with a rasping drive.
An off-the-ball incident involving Harney and Bradley led to both players being booked by referee Shane Andrews before Kris Lowe was perfectly placed to scramble an effort off the line after Aaron Canning’s low cross had bobbled around inside the six-yard area.
Aaron Donnelly was off target with a free-kick and Rory Hale saw a low blast deflected just wide ahead of Canning hooking an attempt inches past the post at the other end.
The scoring was eventually opened on 42 minutes when Donnelly exchanged passes with Daire O’Connor before swinging in a delivery which Harney planted past Deane.
Early in the second-half, O’Connor was unfortunate not to hit the target after cutting inside two defenders and Hale sent in a free-kick which had just too much on it for O’Neill to make a connection but the Reds got the second goal their play deserved when, having gone close through Harney from one corner, Hale’s next delivery was nodded down by Ryan O’Reilly and O’Neill pounced to send in a shot which sneaked just over the line before Josh Carson was able to clear.
The two-goal advantage lasted just five minutes, however, with Doherty converting from the spot after Harney had felled Bradley inside the box but Coleraine’s hopes of rescuing a point with a late charge were dealt a blow when referee Andrews saw one too many fouls from Bradley and duly flashed a second yellow card in the striker’s direction with 15 minutes to play.
The Reds almost made their numerical advantage count straight away when Ryan Curran played O’Neill in on goal but his heavy touch allowed Deane just enough time to come out and make the save and, though the hosts were relatively comfortable in the closing stages, the Bannsiders did create one last-gasp chance that saw Canning lash a volley into the side netting.
Cliftonville: McCarey, O’Reilly, Harney, O’Connor (Doherty, 68 mins), R Curran, Donnelly, Bagnall, Hale, Lowe, Kearns (McCrudden, 80 mins), O’Neill. Unused subs: D Breen, G Breen, Casey, Teggart, Coffey.