NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 3–0 Crusaders 

Cliftonville romped to their second derby win over Crusaders this season with a 3-0 win over their North Belfast neighbours at Solitude on Saturday afternoon. 

Skipper Joe Gormley tapped in the opener before the break and a glancing Rory Hale header doubled the lead midway through the second half before substitute Ben Wilson capped a fine derby win for the hosts. 

Reds boss Jim Magilton was delighted with various aspects of their win and in particular their performance. 

“I’m delighted more so with the performance and how we managed the game against a really strong Crusaders side,” he reflected. 

“To keep them limited to very few chances is huge for us. We’re absolutely delighted with the performance, delighted with another clean sheet and three goals.”

Magilton made two changes to the side that defeated Carrick Rangers the previous weekend. 

Chris Gallagher returned after suspension and Joe Gormley came back into the starting line-up as Luke Kenny and Ben Wilson dropped to the bench. 

The opening quarter of an hour was quiet in terms of chances, but things flared between the players after Paul Heatley caught Chris Gallagher with his arm off the ball.  

After consulting with his officials, referee Jamie Robinson booked Heatley and also carded Ross Clarke and Odhran Casey for pushing and shoving in the aftermath of the incident. 

The hosts looked the likelier to make things happen and Stephen Mallon almost picked out Joe Gormley with a low cross that Daniel Larmour cut out at the expense of a corner. 

Mallon flashed in another cross that wasn’t dealt with and Rory Hale could only swipe at the loose ball fire over. 

Daniel Larmour rises highest

Daniel Larmour rises highest

The deadlock was broken 10 minutes before the break. Shea Kearney’s throw-in released Rory Hale whose cross was met by the head of younger brother Ronan, Jonny Tuffey temporarily kept Hale’s shot at bay, only for Joe Gormley to tap home the rebound for his seventh of the campaign and that would separate the sides at the break. 

Crusaders’ manager Stephen Baxter introduced Adam Lecky at the break in place of Billy Joe Burns and the visitors began the second period on the front foot. 

Former Reds’ midfielder Jude Winchester swept a pass to the feet of Paul Heatley who skipped past the challenge of Odhran Casey and drove in a shot that David Odumosu parried, Heatley then sent the rebound into the side netting. 

Odhran Casey was then caught in possession and Stephen Lowry slipped the ball into the path of Lecky, but he was outmuscled as he attempted to make inroads towards goal. 

Joe Gormley opens the scoring

Joe Gormley opens the scoring

At the other end, Rory Hale carried the ball out of defence before picking out Ronan Doherty. He in turn found Joe Gormley on the wing and after showing nimble footwork to get into a shooting position the striker was unable to double his account. 

Midway through the half, Magilton’s charges doubled their lead.

Shea Kearney popped the ball to the feet of Doherty who clipped a pass to Ronan Hale and he adjusted his run and sent a ball across the face of goal which was helped beyond Tuffey by older sibling Rory to net his sixth of the season. 

Only a brave block from Josh Robinson prevented Sam Ashford from killing the game off with little over a quarter of an hour to remaining. 

Cliftonville would inflict further misery three minutes from time. 

Ronan Doherty’s free-kick down the channel was flicked on by the head of Ashford and it dropped to fellow substitute Ben Wilson whose first-time angled shot clipped the post on its way to the net for his 14th league goal of the campaign. 

Crusaders were unable to respond and for the second time this season fell to a 3-0 defeat to their derby rivals as the gap between the sides opened up to seven points. 

Victory moved the Reds back to within three points of second placed Larne and five points behind league-leaders Linfield ahead of what will be the start of a busy December schedule. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Kearney, Casey, Addis, Turner, Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale (C Curran 78’), Mallon (McGuinness 83’), Ronan Hale (Wilson 69’), Gormley (Ashford 69’). 

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, BJ Burns (Lecky 46’), Weir (Smith 75’), Lowry, Forsythe, O’Rourke, Winchester (Teelan 75’), Larmour, Heatley (Anderson 75’), Robinson, Clarke. 

REFEREE: Jamie Robinson