Ryan Curran went in where it hurts to earn Cliftonville a valuable Danske Bank Premiership victory over Larne this evening.
He bravely seized upon Jonny Addis’ forward pass to beat home goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson to the ball and head in the only goal of the game, taking a hefty clattering in the process – but his discomfort was not to be in vain as the Reds departed Inver Park with full points to their name.
The hosts should, however, have taken an early lead when Tomas Cosgrove’s delivery fell to the unmarked Ronan Hale at the back post but he could only steer his header straight into Luke McNicholas’ grasp.
It wouldn’t be long before Cliftonville had the ball in the net at the other end; a patient passing sequence ending with Addis giving Curran something to chase and the striker beat Ferguson to the bouncing ball. Celebrations among the travelling support were initially subdued over confusion as to whether the not the goal would stand in light of the collision between the two players but, having enjoyed an initial burst of joy when the ball hit the net, the roar grew even louder when it became clear that referee Steven Gregg had not ruled the effort out.
Daniel Kearns went close to making it 2-0 with a header from Levi Ives’ cross before Addis tried his luck with a free-kick from the halfway line which was easily fielded by Ferguson.
Larne threatened an equaliser when John Herron volleyed a Ben Doherty cross goalward and, having seen that attempt blocked by Ives, he sent his follow-up wide from 12 yards before some good pressing high up the field from the Reds ended with Ferguson diving to save an audacious half-volley by Conor McDermott.
The last action of the first-half saw Curran get on the end of a Kearns cross only for Kofi Balmer to nod the striker’s shot over the top.
The second period was a little more conservative from Cliftonville as Larne enjoyed longer stretches of possession but, crucially, without ever really troubling McNicholas.
Even so, Kris Lowe saw a volley charged down from a corner and a deflected Cricky Gallagher shot fell favourably into the path of home sub keeper Conor Devlin.
Davy McDaid sent a spin-and-shot straight at McNicholas and was unlucky to see a hooked effort drift wide before, at the other end, Paul O’Neill did well to wriggle free of both Cian Bolger and Balmer before executing a shot that Devlin dealt with.
Cliftonville: McNicholas, McDermott (C Curran, 58 mins), Ives, R Curran, McDonagh (Harney, 80 mins), Lowe, Addis, Doherty (Donnelly, 70 mins), Turner, Gallagher, Kearns (O’Neill, 70 mins). Unused subs: McKenna, Gormley Coates.