Cliftonville 3–0 Dungannon Swifts
CLIFTONVILLE moved five points clear of second place Larne after a 3-0 win over Dungannon Swifts at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
Ronan Doherty’s opener was added to by Joe Gormley before the break and late-on Jamie McDonagh sealed the win for Paddy McLaughlin’s side to make it 11-wins in a row at Solitude this season.
The Reds boss was delighted with the victory and the clean sheet his side kept in the process.
“I’m delighted, it was a good three points against Dungannon,” reflected McLaughlin.
“The position they are in the league, people can take for granted, but they’re definitely by no means anything to take for granted. They’re a really good football side full of energy and pace, especially in the top end of the pitch.
“To keep a clean sheet against them, we’ve had to work really hard for it. We’re delighted with the clean sheet and the three points.”
McLaughlin named an unchanged team from Tuesday evening’s 4-0 win over Portadown as they sought to maintain their winning run at home.
Cliftonville dominated the early possession stats but failed to turn it into chances. It took 12 minutes for the first opportunity to fall to Jamie McDonagh after Joe Gormley clipped the ball across, but the winger couldn’t head the ball home and instead the danger was cleared at the expense of a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, another chance was fashioned with McDonagh slicing a right-footed effort wide of the post.
McDonagh let fly with a shot that Dwayne Nelson turned behind for a corner and from the resulting set-piece, the opener arrived.
Ronan Doherty got his head from McDonagh’s cross from the left and guided it beyond Nelson and into the net for his first goal since last February.
The hosts almost doubled their lead in the immediate aftermath when Chris Curran slipped the ball inside to Joe Gormley whose shot was pushed away by Nelson and Curran had the follow-up shot, but it hit the side netting.
Dungannon Swifts carved out their first real chance 10 minutes before the break when Ryan Mayse sent a teasing corner from the right on top of Declan Dunne- who got to it ahead of Oisin Smyth.
Defence quickly turned to attack and Cliftonville doubled their lead with Jamie McDonagh delivering an inch-perfect cross to Gormley to convert home the six-yard box for his 11th of the season.
The duo almost linked up again two minutes later when McDonagh sent a free-kick around the corner and Gormley latched onto it, with his drive crashing off the post and out as it remained 2-0 at the interval.
Ethan McGee sent an early half chance high and wide of the post early in the second period that took a while to spring in life.
With a quarter of an hour remaining the Swifts almost found a route back into the game with a free-kick that was flicked into the path of Caolin Coyle and Declan Dunne produced a point-blank-save to deny the wing-back.
A few minutes later, Dwayne Nelson thwarted Jamie McDonagh from Daniel Kearns knock-on.
But on 86 minutes the winger finally got the better of the Swifts goalkeeper after Ryan Curran slipped in Joe Gormley, Gormley dinked the ball over the advancing Nelson and McDonagh made sure of the goal at the expense of a nasty collision with the post, but he recovered and was replaced by Paul O’Neill late-on.
That finished the scoring for the afternoon as Cliftonville opened up a five-point gap over second-placed Larne at the top of the table.
CLIFTONVILLE: Dunne, Lowe, Turner, Addis, Donnelly, C Curran, Gallagher (Kearns 57), Doherty, R Curran, McDonagh (O’Neill 88), Gormley (Foster 88).
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Nelson, Coyle, Glynn, Mayse (McAleer 53), Smyth, Campbell (Gallagher 71), McGinty, McBrien, McGee (Convie 82), Conway (Knowles 71).
REFEREE: Shane Andrews