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Cliftonville 2-1 Carrick Rangers

Two Jamie Harney headers saw Cliftonville begin the Danske Bank Premiership season on a winning note in a comeback victory over Carrick Rangers this afternoon.

Despite starting promisingly, the Reds fell behind through Lloyd Anderson’s smart finish early on but were in front by half-time thanks to Harney nodding in deliveries from Levi Ives and Jamie McDonagh.

Chances to extend their advantage either side of the interval came and went, leaving Cliftonville in a vulnerable situation during a nervy final 10 minutes, during which Carrick came close to snatching a point – but wayward finishing and safe hands from goalkeeper Declan Dunne ensured three opening day points for Paddy McLaughlin’s side.

The day had got off to a promising start with the Reds enjoying long spells of possession during the opening exchanges but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock when Anderson reacted quickest to direct a volley into the bottom corner after an effort from David Cushley had deflected into his path.

Cliftonville were level within five minutes, however, when McDonagh’s short corner allowed Ives to whip in a cross which Harney met with a forceful back post header.

Aaron Hogg’s save prevented Ryan Curran from putting the Reds in front and Reece Glendinning blocked a goalbound Ronan Doherty strike but there was nothing the Carrick keeper could do to keep another Harney header out; McDonagh this time proving the delivery for the central defender to finish off.

It was almost 3-1 at the start of the second-half but Curran saw a close-range shot blocked before the Gers saw three gilt-edged openings go to waste.

First, Ewan Kelly failed to hit the target when presented with time and space inside the box before Stuart Nixon did likewise shortly after being introduced from the bench.

Though Cliftonville still carried a threat – as demonstrated by a fierce Joe Gormley strike which curled wide of the mark – it was Carrick who looked the most likely to find the net but their final chance came and went when Lee McNulty headed tamely into Dunne’s arms.

Cliftonville: Dunne, Ives, Harney, C Curran, Hale, R Curran, McDonagh, Addis, Doherty, Gallagher, Kearns. Subs: D Breen, Foster, Donnelly (Ives, 74 mins), Gormley (Kearns, 63 mins), McCurry, Casey), Turner (Harney, 68 mins).

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Half-Gate Draw Number: 6719