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Reds Ror into New Year

Cliftonville 2-1 Larne

Rory Hale sealed the victory as Cliftonville stormed from behind to get the better of Larne at a raucous Solitude this afternoon.

Trailing to a Lee Bonis strike early in the second-half, the Reds were soon level when Sean Moore opened his account with a composed finish in front of the McAlery Stand before Hale pumped the volume up further when he showed neat feet inside the area to stroke the hosts in front.

Chris Curran might have made it 3-1 only to see his attempt hacked off the line by Fuad Sule at the end of a pulsating showdown.

The early opportunities fashioned by both sides proved a sign of things to come as the action swung from end to end; Aaron Donnelly nodding off target and Ronan Hale seeing a diving header gathered by Rohan Ferguson either side of Bonis seeing an effort ruled out for offside.

The best chance of the first-half saw Paul O’Neill denied from point-blank range by Nathan Gartside, while Joe Gormley flashed a half-volley over the top at the other end before dragging an attempt across the face of goal.

After shooting off target from a good position early in the second period, Tomas Cosgrove got his angles right with the cross that teed Bonis up to slam Larne in front and it wasn’t long before Ben Doherty was threatening to double the away side’s lead with a blistering strike that whistled wide.

Cliftonville restored parity just before the hour when the lively Rory Hale drove inside and played a pass to the feet of Gormley, who slipped Moore in for an effort that took a nick off Cian Bolger on its way past Ferguson.

After O’Neill had been unable to convert a cross from the right, the Reds took the lead at the end of a move that started in somewhat unusual circumstances.

With O’Neill receiving treatment for cramp from a team-mate in the aftermath of that near miss, players from both sides used the break in play to take on fluids and some words of advice from their respective dugouts. When the Larne forward got back to his feet, Jonny Addis quickly took a goal kick that set the wheels in motion for the ball to find the net.

As almost double figures-worth of players jockeyed their way back on to the pitch, Rory Hale seized upon a stumble from Doherty and picked up possession from his brother Ronan before side-stepping Bolger’s attempted block and slotting in a shot that found the net via a touch from Sule.

A foul on Addis then denied Leroy Millar an equaliser before late nerves were almost calmed when, in the aftermath of Moore getting the better of Sule but not Ferguson, Curran tried his luck from range only to see the retrieving Sule somehow race back in time to clear his shot off the line and ensure a further minute or so before the final blast of referee Evan Boyce’s whistle settled the issue.

Cliftonville: Gartside, Ives, Addis, Gallagher, Rory Hale (Casey, 85 mins), Lowe, Doherty, Gormley (C Curran, 81 mins), Turner, Ronan Hale (Coates, 89 mins), Moore. Unused subs: Donnelly, R Curran, Robinson, Storey.