NIFL Premiership

Warrenpoint Town 0-5 Cliftonville 

CLIFTONVILLE eased their way to three points with a convincing 5-0 win over Warrenpoint Town at Milltown on Saturday afternoon.

Ahead early through a stunning Michael McCrudden strike, a converted penalty from Ryan Curran doubled their advantage with McCrudden claiming his brace deep in first-half injury time.

Derry native McCrudden would claim his second hat-trick of the campaign before Daire O’Connor rounded off a five-star display from Paddy McLaughlin’s charges.

The Reds’ boss was delighted with his side’s effort and believes that they earned the plaudits that came their way. 

“There is never a handy day in this league,” said McLaughlin. 

“You have to earn everything you get in it and you have to work hard for it and I think that’s what you saw there in abundance today. 

“I think the boys worked hard for it and they’ve earned it, they’ve earned their clean sheet, they’ve earned the three-points and they’ve worked a couple of really good goals.” 

McLaughlin made two enforced changes from the previous weekend’s starting 11 as Daniel Kearns and Paul O’Neill missed the game through injury. Chris Curran returned to the starting eleven after missing the Bannsiders encounter through injury and there was a rare start for Michael McCrudden up front. 

Cliftonville wasted no time in hitting the front at Milltown and it came through McCrudden. 

The former Derry City striker has seen opportunities limited in recent weeks and hasn’t been in the starting line-up since the end of January. 

He was booked inside of five minutes for a late challenge on Danny Wallace but found the net two minutes later. A short throw between Chris Curran and Rory Hale saw the latter release McCrudden with an inch perfect pass down the channel and the striker made an angle and bent the ball around the dive of Andy Coleman and into the corner for his fifth league goal of the season. 

With little under a quarter of an hour gone, the Reds had the opportunity to double their lead from the spot after Gregg adjudged Danny Wallace to have chopped down Chris Curran.

Namesake Ryan Curran took responsibility and confidently dispatched for his 12th goal of the season.

Rory Hale should have increased the lead before the half hour mark, but his effort was too high to trouble Coleman. 

It took Warrenpoint 35 minutes to carve out their first opening, but Fra McCaffrey failed to keep his shot down.

At the other end, Michael McCrudden couldn’t get his shot away and instead played the ball across to Daire O’Connor whose goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by Wallace.

Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Cliftonville made it three. O’Connor weaved his way into the area and cut the ball across to McCrudden who tucked it home to make it 3-0 at the break.

Point manager Barry Gray attempted to shake things up by introducing Kris Cowan and Kealan Dillon at the break and hosts almost pulled a goal back as Adam Carroll let fly with an angled drive but Aaron McCarey was equal to it.

Jamie Harney headed Rory Hale’s corner straight at Andy Coleman just after the hour mark and on 63 minutes, Paddy McLaughlin’s men extended their lead.

Daire O’Connor switched the ball to his left to Rory Hale who fizzed a low ball into the area and Michael McCrudden swept home to secure his second hat-trick of the season and make it 4-0.

McCrudden’s first hat-trick of the season came in a 5-0 drubbing of Portadown and the Reds would hit five for the second time in the campaign. 

With little over 20 minutes remaining, a fabulous cross-field pass from Hale picked out Daire O’Connor who spotted Coleman advancing and lifted it over the Point ’keeper to round off the afternoons scoring.

Brandon Doyle came the closest to finding a consolation for the hosts, however his free-kick was parried to safety by McCarey.

There were no further goals as Cliftonville ran out convincing winners to jump back into fifth in the table and bolster their chances of a top-six finish come the split at the end of April. 

WARRENPOINT TOWN: Coleman, Deasy, Ball (Cowan 46), McCaffrey (O’Sullivan 58), Gallagher, Carroll, Swan (Dillon 46), Hutchinson, Wallace, Byrne, Doyle.

CLIFTONVILLE: McCarey, Lowe, O’Reilly, Harney (Breen 65), Donnelly, C Curran, Bagnall (Coffey 65) Hale, O’Connor, R Curran, McCrudden (Casey 67).

REFEREE: Steven Gregg