Cliftonville produced a scintillating North Belfast Derby display to get the better of Crusaders in this evening’s Sports Direct Premiership showdown at Seaview.
Three unanswered goals saw Jim Magilton’s side return to winning ways with their best performance of the season, leaving Reds fans in attendance – and those around the world watching on Sky Sports – lapping up every second of the celebrations on the Shore Road.
Ahead when Chris Gallagher slammed home following a well-worked corner routine, Cliftonville doubled their advantage when Rory Hale found the bottom corner before half-time.
Ben Wilson’s smart finish made it 3-0 early in the second period and, while Hale and Sam Ashford both went close to adding a fourth, the visitors comfortably held on for three impressively-earned points.
Amid a bright start, Luke Turner saw a right-footed effort grasped by home keeper Jonny Tuffey, who also had to be alert to deal with a dangerous Odhran Casey delivery.
A fine stop from David Odumosu prevented Daniel Larmour’s header from breaking the deadlock but it wasn’t long before the ball was in the net at the other end; Ronan Doherty picking out Gallagher, whose fierce blast roared into the net.
Paul Heatley should have drawn the Crues level when he stole in behind only to send his strike across the face of goal and wide and, after a controversial offside call had denied Wilson from making it 2-0, Cliftonville got the second goal their efforts deserved when a surging run from Gallagher ended with him teeing up Hale for a well-taken finish from the edge of the box.
The hosts came close to reducing the arrears early in the second period only for a timely intervention from Luke Turner to stop Adam Lecky from converting Heatley’s dangerous cross – and that would prove crucial because, just minutes later, the Reds made it 3-0 when Hale’s delivery from the right was controlled and finished on the turn by Wilson.
Cliftonville should have extended their advantage thereafter but, with Hale clipping the outside of the post with one effort before sending another off target alongside Ashford being unable to keep an attempt the right side of the crossbar, Crusaders were let off the hook on a number of occasions – not that there was any means of dampening the celebrations in the away end.
Cliftonville: Odumosu, Stewart, Addis, Gallagher, Rory Hale (C Curran, 88 mins), Lowe, Doherty, Ashford, Casey, Turner, Wilson (Gormley, 86 mins). Unused subs: Gartside, Pepper, Kenny, Kearney, Berry.