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Portadown 1-2 Cliftonville

Ryan Curran’s first-half double earned Cliftonville all three points from an entertaining Danske Bank Premiership clash with Portadown at Shamrock Park this evening.

His first came on 27 minutes when he directed a Rory Hale strike past goalkeeper Jacob Carney from close range and he completed his brace with the benefit of a deflection off Adam McCallum seven minutes later.

The Reds saw multiple opportunities repelled by young Ports keeper Carney either side of the hosts reducing the deficit when Ben Tilney’s fierce blast cannoned in off Liam Bagnall just before half-time and, though they were unable to find the killer third goal, there’s no doubting Cliftonville were deserving winners.

Indeed, the visitors could have been ahead in the opening minute when a curling effort from Rory Hale was spilled by Carney and both Daire O’Connor and Chris Curran saw follow-ups blocked on the line.

Chris Curran then saw another shot gathered by Carney at the second attempt before the Portadown keeper was adjudged to have got his angles spot on when he raced to gather the ball at the edge of his box, although Michael McCrudden argued he had handled outside the area.

An error from Greg Hall presented O’Connor with a chance  and, while Carney emerged on top of their one-on-one battle, there was nothing he could do to stop Ryan Curran from putting Cliftonville into a deserved lead at the end of a move that had seen Chris Curran and McCrudden exchange passes before Hale drove the ball goalward from 18 yards.

It was 2-0 soon later when Ryan Curran chested the ball down just outside the box and, after being teed up by McCrudden’s backheel, fired in a shot which took a nick off McCallum on its way into the net.

Aaron Donnelly was next to go close and Carney produced an excellent save to claw McCrudden’s chipped effort out before the Ports pulled one back when Tilney’s volley from George Tipton’s corner struck Bagnall en route past Aaron McCarey.

Despite that blow, Cliftonville continued to dictate proceedings after the break and saw Ryan O’Reilly denied by arguably Carney’s best stop of the night ahead of Hale sending a left-footed strike wide.

The keeper then repelled a close-range McCrudden effort, with Chris Curran’s rebound cleared off the line ahead of McCrudden steering Donnelly’s low cross just the wrong side of the post.

After saving from O’Connor, Carney dealt easily with a Ryan Curran header before doing well to recover after spilling a well-struck O’Connor effort and, though Cliftonville were unable to get the better of the Manchester United loanee again, McCarey was relatively untroubled at the other end as the visitors claimed a well-earned win.

Cliftonville: McCarey, G Breen, O’Reilly, C Curran (O’Neill, 83 mins), O’Connor, R Curran, McCrudden, Donnelly, Bagnall, Hale (Doherty, 87 mins), Lowe. Unused subs: Dunne, Harney, Casey, Kearns, Coffey.