David Parkhouse marked his first start with a first Cliftonville goal to open the path to victory over Glenavon this evening.
The on loan Ballymena United striker rifled home in the early stages at Mourneview Park, where the Reds were forced to work hard before doubling their advantage through Colin Coates in a second-half that saw Ronan Hale strike the crossbar and disallowed goals by Rory Hale and Luke Turner alongside good saves to deny both Ronan Hale and Odhran Casey.
When Matthew Fitzpatrick pulled one back for the hosts a minute from time, there were understandable jitters among a Cliftonville support that had seen two-goal leads squandered in both of the team’s last two matches – and, indeed, the last time the Reds faced the Lurgan Blues – but the threat of that particular lightning striking again was halted when Ronan Hale slammed in from close range after good work from Joe Gormley in injury-time.
Glenavon began the game brightly but, after Robert Garrett had put two efforts over the bar from distance, they found themselves behind when a foul on Sean Moore earned a free-kick which Levi Ives dinked towards the back post, where Turner was lurking to nod the ball into Parkhouse’s path and he made no mistake with a first-time finish.
A scuffed shot from Jack Malone fell for Aaron Prendergast but he, too, failed to make a telling connection and stroked wide just when the Lurgan Blues looked set to equalise before Matthew Snoddy was off target with a header from a good position.
After the break, Ronan Hale did well to get away from Danny Wallace and, when his cross eventually fell for brother Rory in the box, he saw his shot blocked behind for a corner, while good work from Parkhouse teed up an opportunity for Moore, who was unable to work the ball out of his feet before Sean Ward intervened to clear the danger.
Ronan Hale then rattled the crossbar from distance as the Reds went in search of a second goal that eventually arrived when Ronan Doherty, who had just seen a corner cleared at the near post, whipped in an inviting cross at the second time of asking and Coates rose highest to nod home.
A controversial offside flag cut Rory Hale’s celebrations short after he had rounded goalkeeper Marc Matthews to find the net, while the young keeper made fine stops from Ronan Hale and Casey before Turner saw an effort ruled out for a foul.
Despite the game having turned into virtual one-way traffic, Glenavon were thrown a lifeline when Fitzpatrick pulled a goal back just as the contest ticked into injury-time, but Cliftonville made sure of the points when Gormley seized on Doherty’s forward ball to set Ronan Hale up for a simple finish.
Cliftonville: Gartside, Ives, Gallagher, Rory Hale (Casey, 83 mins), Parkhouse (Gormley, 77 mins), Lowe, R Doherty, Turner, Ronan Hale, Coates, Moore. Unused subs: G Doherty, C Curran, R Curran, McDonagh, Robinson.