Warrenpoint Town 2-4 Cliftonville
CLIFTONVILLE recovered from a set-back before the break to see off Warrenpoint Town and maintain their five-point lead at the top of the table with a 4-2 victory at Milltown on Saturday afternoon.
Despite racing into an early 2-0 lead through goals from Levi Ives and Ryan Curran, the league leaders were pegged back before the break as Daniel Byrne headed home and Jonny Addis turned Alan O’Sullivan’s cross into his own net.
Curran restored his side’s lead with a thumping header and a late Daniel Kearns goal sealed the points for Paddy McLaughlin’s side.
McLaughlin felt the game was too end-to-end for his liking and admits that some harsh words at the interval galvanised his side.
“It was tough and end-to-end - probably a wee bit too end-to-end,” McLaughlin reflected.
“I think we were in control of the game for the first 20 minutes with a 2-0 lead. We were very comfortable in the game but to give Warrenpoint Town all the credit in the world, they got themselves back into it. They scored and put us on the back foot for the rest of the half.
“They were definitely in the ascendancy going in at half-time and from us being so comfortable in the first 20 minutes, it shows if you get complacent against anybody in the division you’ll get punished and we definitely got punished in the first half.
“In the second half, we were delighted with the response from the players. There were a few harsh words at half time and I suppose it works sometimes.
“You don’t want to be doing that, but it definitely got the response we were looking for in the second half. We got a foothold in the game and scored another two goals and didn’t concede any more.”
McLaughlin named an unchanged starting 11 from the midweek League Cup win on Tuesday evening at Shamrock Park.
They made a quick opening and were ahead inside of two minutes. Aaron Donnelly nipped onto the ball in midfield and fed Jamie McDonagh; his cut-back was missed by Joe Gormley but Levi Ives rifled low to the net past Conor Mitchell to make it 1-0.
Mitchell needed to be alert to turn Kris Lowe’s dangerous cross behind a few minutes but had to pick the ball out of the net for the second time on nine minutes.
Levi Ives played a delightful ball over the top for Ronan Doherty to chase and Doherty held onto it before rolling it across for Ryan Curran to turn home.
A chance of a third fell to Joe Gormley, but the striker failed to make the most of a ball over the top and his shot lacked the power needed to test Mitchell.
Just after the half-hour mark, Warrenpoint Town got themselves back in the game when a free-kick into the box by Jonathan Leddy was flicked on by Alan O’Sullivan and a glancing header from Daniel Byrne beat Declan Dunne to make it 2-1.
The goal lifted the Point and with little under five minutes to the break, Barry Gray’s men drew level.
Alan O’Sullivan pulled the ball back and in trying to cut the danger out; Kris Lowe only helped turned the ball in the direction of Jonny Addis to chest into his own net and ensure that the Reds’ early work was wiped out at the interval.
Both sides pushed for a third goal early in the second period, although chances were at a premium and the final pass just wasn’t right.
Alan O’Sullivan attempted to pick out Greg Moorhouse, but the former Glenavon striker missed the stretch and the opportunity. At the other end, Daniel Byrne threw himself in the way of Joe Gormley’s attempted shot.
With 20 minutes remaining, Gormley then pulled the ball across and Colm Deasy’s deflection was headed further behind by Luke Gallagher at the expense of a corner.
From the subsequent Levi Ives delivery, Cliftonville regained the lead when the left-back’s pinpoint cross was met by Ryan Curran for his second of the afternoon to make it 3-2.
Jamie McDonagh could have restored his side’s two-goal lead after racing onto Joe Gormley’s ball in behind and outmuscling Byrne, but he blasted into the side netting from a tight angle.
The game was far from settled and Levi Ives needed to be alert to bundle behind from an Alan O’Sullivan cross with Luke Wade-Slater waiting for the connection.
Steven Ball then provided an inch-perfect ball into the box for Stuart Hutchinson and again it came to nothing as Ives did enough to put the midfielder off.
The league leaders wrapped the game up and restored their two-goal advantage in second-half injury time.
Levi Ives’ throw-in was cut out and the midfielder showed desire to head the ball forward and into the path of substitute Daniel Kearns to race onto. Kearns got in between Daniel Byrne and the onrushing Conor Mitchell and lifted the ball over the Point goalkeeper and into the net to score his second goal in a matter of days and secure the win for the visitors.
WARRENPOINT TOWN: Mitchell, Deasym Ball, Peers, Dillon, O’Sullivan, Gallagher (Shotayo 84), Wade-Slater, Hutchinson, Leddy (Moorhouse 62), Byrne.
CLIFTONVILLE: Dunne, Lowe, Turner, Addis, Ives, Donnelly (Kearns 65), Doherty (Foster 77), C Curran, R Curran, McDonagh (Coates 87), Gormley (McDermott 87).
REFEREE: Christopher Morrison