Ronan Hale’s free-kick proved the difference at Mourneview Park, where Cliftonville ground out a battling win over Glenavon this afternoon.
Hale and Chris Gallagher had provided the Reds’ biggest threats in the first-half of a game that appeared to be petering out in the aftermath of Ryan Curran striking the crossbar with a floated effort from distance.
The visitors would, however, up the ante and got their reward when a foul on Curran just outside the box earned a free-kick which Hale stepped up to plant into the bottom corner.
Cliftonville’s first opportunity came when Chris Curran’s ball into Joe Gormley’s feet saw the striker clip a first-time pass towards Kris Lowe but he was unable to get any significant purchase on his shot, allowing goalkeeper Rory Brown to gather easily.
Ronan Hale then drew a save from Brown with an effort from distance before Chris Gallagher saw a 20-yard drive smothered at the second attempt.
Jonny Addis was unfortunate to see an attempted pass to Gormley race away from his team-mate and, after Matthew Fitzpatrick had dragged a half-volley wide at the other end, Ronan Doherty had an effort charged down by Isaac Baird.
As Cliftonville continued to carve out the contest’s better chances, Hale was unable to make the most of an inch-perfect Doherty ball in behind before the first-half ended with Hale directing a free-kick into the defensive wall.
After the break, good wide play from Gormley ended with a Hale shot deflecting comfortably into Brown’s grasp ahead of Ryan Curran rattling the frame of the goal.
Reds goalkeeper Nathan Gartside was called into action when a wayward Daniel Wallace cross threatened to drop beneath the crossbar but it wouldn’t be long before the ball was in the net at the other end; Jack Malone’s foul on Ryan Curran allowing Hale to find the bottom corner from just outside the area to turn one point into all three.
Cliftonville: Gartside, Addis, Gallagher, C Curran (McDonagh, 74 mins), R Curran, Lowe, Doherty, Gormley (Moore, 74 mins), Turner, Ronan Hale (Casey, 86 mins), Coates. Unused subs: Talley, Robinson, Storey, McGuinness.