Cliftonville 1– 0 Carrick Rangers
RYAN Curran kept his cool from the spot to ensure that Cliftonville claimed all three points with a 1-0 win over Carrick Rangers at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
It was an uneventful affair until the final quarter when referee Declan Hassan awarded the hosts a penalty after deliberation with his linesman and Curran slotted home.
Carrick Rangers thought they had salvaged a point when Reece Glendinning headed home from the edge of the box, but it would be chalked off after further consultation and the Reds held on for the win to the relief of manager Paddy McLaughlin.
“We’re delighted with the win and the clean sheet,” McLaughlin reflected.
“You focus on the positives first before you start trying to correct the negatives. A clean sheet and three points is what we came for and that was the priority. It was frustrating, Carrick defended really well. They defended in numbers, they defended deep and made it really difficult for us to create much.
“You just need that bit of luck to go your way and a decision to go your way and the penalty decision obviously was the one that went in our favour. We knocked on the door a few times without creating anything too clear-cut, but you could see that we were the only team trying to win the match.
“It could have been one of them days that was 0-0 and Carrick’s game plan worked a treat. Luckily enough for us, the referee, and the linesman between them got it right. It was a penalty; it was a bit of a clumsy and reckless tackle on Chris Curran. It was a penalty all day, no argument and that was the decision that won us the game.”
McLaughlin named an unchanged starting team from last weekend’s 4-2 win away at Coleraine.
The first half lacked much incident of note on a wet and dull afternoon at Solitude. The first incident of note involved Curtis Allen departing for the visitors through injury.
Just before the half hour mark, Ronan Hale released brother Rory with a neat flick-on, which he ran onto and sent a low drive past the target and wide.
David Cushley had the chance to send Rangers in front. Standing over a promising free-kick, he sent his powerful drive into the wall though, the deflection dropped and eventually Alex Gawne sent his snapshot wide of the post.
Before the break, Rory Hale tried his luck from distance, but Ross Glendinning was equal to his opportunity and at the break a largely forgetful opening half ended scoreless.
Cliftonville upped the ante upon the resumption as Ronan Doherty was played in behind, though his shot was parried at the expense of a corner by Ross Glendinning.
A half-volley from Ronan Hale followed, but again the Rangers goalkeeper was equal to the effort.
The pressure continued as Ronan Doherty let fly with a volley that cannoned into the body of Jamie Robinson and the follow-up attempt was gathered by Glendinning.
Paddy McLaughlin made a double switch, introducing Chris Curran and Joe Gormley in the hope that they would make the difference.
But Carrick were a threat as the game stretched, Ben Tilney dug out a deep cross that Nathan Gartside needed to come and collect.
Gers’ substitute Emmet McGuckin then let fly with a speculative volley that dropped over the crossbar.
Rory Hale and Luke Turner both headed wide of the target as the game ticked towards the final quarter of an hour.
The breakthrough would arrive with 13 minutes remaining. Chris Curran played a one-two with Kris Lowe and as he tried to force a corner, the captain had his legs taken from underneath him by Steven Gordon.
Referee Declan Hassan and linesman Brian Wilson were undecided on the outcome before Hassan pointed to the spot, much to the disbelief of the Carrick players.
Nonetheless, Ryan Curran seized responsibility and wrong-footed Ross Glendinning to edge the Reds ahead and score his seventh league goal in the process.
Carrick Rangers threw everything at the hosts in pursuit of a leveller and they thought they had salvaged a share of the spoils on the stroke of full-time.
The visitors launched a long throw into the edge of the area, Ronan Doherty attempted to head the ball clear- but it only fell to Reece Glendinning whose header deceived Nathan Gartside and found the net.
Glendinning led his jubilant team-mates away in celebration, whilst Luke Turner and Jonny Addis appealed for an offside flag.
Hassan consulted with his linesman and the duo concluded that substitute Peter McKiernan had been in an offside position and unsighted Nathan Gartside as the goal was ruled out.
Thereafter, Cliftonville saw the game out to claim all three-points and move to within three points of league-leaders Glentoran at the summit.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Robinson, Turner, Doherty Gallagher (C Curran 58’), Rory Hale (Coates 88’), R Curran, McDonagh (Gormley 58’), Ronan Hale.
CARRICK RANGERS: Ross Glendinning, Forsythe, Ervin, Gordon, Cushley (Kalla 65’), Allen (McGuckin 26’), Gawne (McKiernan 70’), Cherry, Reece Glendinning, Tilney, Anderson.
REFEREE: Declan Hassan