Glentoran 0-2 Cliftonville
Rory Hale rattled home a stunning goal as Cliftonville made a winning return to the scene of last week’s disappointment.
Seven days on from suffering Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup elimination at the hands of Glentoran, the Reds celebrated a well-deserved Danske Bank Premiership victory which was topped off by a late security strike from Michael McCrudden.
Boss Paddy McLaughlin made four changes to the side which had started that previous outing at The Oval and it was one of those new additions, Daire O’Connor, who fashioned the game’s first shot but Glens keeper Rory Brown made a comfortable stop.
Brown was called into action again soon later to keep Kris Lowe’s name off the scoresheet and the same player saw another strike deflected onto the roof of the net by Caolan Marron.
Hale dragged an attempt wide and O’Connor had a shot charged down before Aaron McCarey was called upon to make a routine save from Jay Donnelly at the other end.
The keeper also had to be alert to tip a fierce Dale Gorman free-kick over the top towards the end of the first-half while, at the start of the second, McCrudden should have broken the deadlock only to touch his close-range attempt past the far post.
Just before the hour, Cliftonville – who had lost Liam Bagnall to injury at half-time – saw Garry Breen carried off in some discomfort but, despite having to chop and change, it wasn’t long before they got the breakthrough goal their performance deserved.
Seanna Foster did well to put Patrick McClean under pressure in an aerial duel and, when O’Connor seized upon the loose ball, he rolled possession into Hale’s path on the edge of the area and the midfielder smashed home an unstoppable strike off the underside of the bar.
No sooner had visiting celebrations died down than the Glens might have been level only for Conor McMenamin ti blaze over the top after engineering some space for himself inside the box.
Levi Ives, making his first appearance since October, became the third Reds player forced out of the action with just under 20 minutes to play and his replacement, Ryan Curran, had the ball in the net soon later only for the offside flag to be raised.
Within a minute, however, Cliftonville had sealed the points when McCrudden finished off a slick passing sequence that saw both Chris and Ryan Curran involved before O’Connor picked the striker out in acres of space in the middle.
Ronan Doherty sent an attempt wide of the mark as the visitors went in search of a third during six minutes of injury-time but, with a much-changed defence holding firm, Cliftonville saw things through to the final blast of referee Keith Kennedy’s whistle.
Cliftonville: McCarey, Ives (R Curran, 71 mins), Breen (Doherty, 59 mins), Harney, C Curran, O’Connor, McCrudden, Donnelly, Bagnall (Foster, 46 mins), Hale, Lowe. Unused subs: Dunne, Kearns, O’Neill, Coffey.