Cliftonville 1-0 Glentoran
Kris Lowe’s first ever goal for Cliftonville proved the difference in tonight’s Danske Bank Premiership showdown with Glentoran.
On his 96th appearance for the Club, a deflected effort from the former Dungannon Swifts man got the better of Aaron McCarey to settle what had been a cagey affair at a sold-out Solitude.
The Reds threatened to take an early lead when Ronan Hale let fly from just outside the box and, though the effort was repelled by the goalkeeper, the ball fell favourably for Joe Gormley, who got his angles completely wrong with a headed rebound that almost went out for a throw-in.
At the other end, Ruaidhri Donnelly was unable to make a full connection with a cross from Danny Purkis, who then sent an effort wide of one post before Donnelly did likewise with the other.
Hale sent two deliveries straight into McCarey’s grasp as Cliftonville probed for an opening ahead of Nathan Gartside being called into action by a firm drive from Seanan Clucas.
As the sides continued to trade chances, Jamie McDonagh saw a free-kick punched away and Sean Murray tried his luck from distance, while the second-half began with Donnelly steering off target from another Purkis cross.
Gormley then thrashed wide from an unlikely angle and Luke Turner cleared off the line just when Purkis looked set to pounce on a Donnelly delivery before both sides quick quickfire penalty appeals waved away by referee Christopher Morrison.
First, Hale asked the question after being petulantly kicked out at by McCarey and, just seconds later, Purkis needed little persuasion to take a tumble under pressure from Turner – however the officials were unmoved on either occasion.
The breakthrough came 11 minutes from time when Sean Moore set off on a waltzing run down the left and, though he had initially appeared to run out of room, the 17-year-old stepped back inside defender Rhys Marshall and, after skipping into the box, saw his attempted pass to Lowe nudged on by Luke McCullough, with Lowe stepping up for a shot that struck Clucas and found the back of the net.
Gartside had to get down to deal with a Purkis effort before Cliftonville enjoyed an injury-time let-off when the unmarked Jay Donnelly headed wide with the goal at his mercy – the final telling action of a tense battle under the Solitude lights.
Cliftonville: Gartside, Addis, Gallagher, Rory Hale (Casey, 76 mins), McDonagh (C Curran, 79 mins), Lowe, Gormley, Turner, Ronan Hale (R Curran, 76 mins), Coates, Moore. Unused subs: Donnelly, Ives, Robinson, Storey.