Glentoran 0-1 Cliftonville
An early Ryan Curran volley settled the issue as Cliftonville got the better of Glentoran at The Oval this afternoon.
Quite how that strike proved the final goal of the game is anybody’s guess because, while the home side were denied on a number of occasions by Nathan Gartside, the Reds carved out a number of gilt-edged openings, with Hale brothers Rory and Ronan passing up quickfire opportunities in the first-half ahead of Ronan Doherty cracking the underside of the crossbar after the break.
Shay McCartan’s red card for a wild challenge on Rory Hale should have further tipped the balance in Cliftonville’s favour, but the Glens twice came close to levelling in the final minutes of a pulsating showdown.
The deadlock was broken on eight minutes when Rory Hale’s corner was headed into the sky by Patrick McClean and, when the ball dropped back down, Curran was on hand to meet it with a spectacular left-footed volley.
After Jay Donnelly had seen a leveller ruled out for offside, the same player was denied by a smart save from Gartside before Rory Hale blasted over the top after being picked out by Luke Turner in the middle.
Younger sibling Ronan then screwed wide from a Joe Gormley pass ahead of Gartside coming to the Reds’ rescue after Jamie Robinson had his pocket picked by Donnelly.
Just past the hour mark, Doherty clattered the woodwork with a superb curling effort ahead of the home side seeing their numbers reduced when McCartan careered into Rory Hale.
Despite being a man light, it was the Glens who carved out the best of the contest’s remaining chances.
First, Marcus Kane lifted a shot inches wide of the post amid uncertainty in the Reds’ backline and then, totally unmarked, Terry Devlin failed to connect with a dangerous cross to the back stick.
Cliftonville: Gartside, Addis, Gallagher, Rory Hale (McDonagh, 79 mins), R Curran, Lowe, Robinson, Doherty, Gormley (Coates, 83 mins), Turner, Ronan Hale. Unused subs: Talley, C Curran, Storey, McGuinness, Moore.