Cliftonville 1–0 Newry City
RONAN Hale struck midway through the first half as Cliftonville returned to winning ways with a hard fought 1-0 win over Newry City at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
Coming into the game off the back of successive defeats in league and cup, manager Jim Magilton demanded a response and although he would have preferred a more straight-forward afternoon, Hale’s strike ensured all three points and that was the most pleasing aspect for Magilton, who acknowledged the contribution of goalkeeper David Odumosu.
“If Ben scores early, it’s a different game and a different complexion on the game altogether,” reflected Magilton.
“We were good in patches again, a little bit nervy. I just said to that I think they are a great group of lads, a really, really great group of players and they cannot lose confidence in the way we want to play, because that’s what has brought them so much success.
“It’s reiterating that, reaffirming that and being more clinical. It is amazing to think that we’re speaking for Ben to be more clinical. Ben has missed a few chances and Ronan has come in and scored a great goal. In that area we’re pretty healthy competition with Joe and Sam and that’s great, it gives us options.
“I thought our goalkeeper was brilliant today. It’s not often that we have to speak about him, but he has been absolutely brilliant. He was so switched on with concentration because he didn’t see an awful lot of action and when he did, he made some really great saves. It was very important and to get back to a clean sheet and it was important to win the game.”
Magilton made three alterations to the side that started Tuesday evening's Bet McLean Cup defeat at the hands of Dungannon Swifts.
David Odumosu returned in goal, Luke Turner overcame a late fitness test and replaced Stephen McGuinness, while Ben Wilson returned in attack in place of Sam Ashford.
Cliftonville applied the early pressure at Solitude with a fortunate ricochet allowing Ben Wilson an opportunity inside of two minutes which he steered wide of the target under pressure from Newry goalkeeper Tom Murphy.
The City shot-stopper then parried Shea Kearney’s shot after the youngster hurried into an attacking position.
At the other end, Luke Kenny needed to stand strong and get his body in the way of Ciaran O’Connor who went down under his challenge on the edge of the box.
On his first league start of the season, Stephen Mallon supplied a cross which was met by Ben Wilson and Tom Murphy had to touch his looping his header out from underneath the crossbar.
Midway through the half, Chris Gallagher played a one-two with Mallon, but his shot rose over the bar.
The breakthrough arrived for the hosts in the 23rd minute as Rory Hale turned away from Ciaran O’Connor and sent in a cross that Barney McKeown failed to cut out. Ronan Hale picked up the loose ball and curled a fantastic shot low past Murphy and into the corner to score his second of the season.
Newry City responded positively with Adam Carroll’s angled shot on the turn pushed away by David Odumosu.
The on-loan St Pat’s keeper parried Adam Salley’s shot a few minutes later and Lorcan Forde then saw his shot from the edge of the box whistle behind.
Ben Wilson fired the ball across the face of goal and wide and just before the break Newry spurned their best chance to restore parity when substitute Jordan Mooney popped up at the back post and his stooping header was somehow clawed out by Odumosu as Hale’s goal proved the difference at the break.
Cliftonville should have doubled their lead within four minutes of the restart. The outside of the post denied Ben Wilson and Stephen Mallon’s backheel saw the ball fall for Ronan Hale whose goal bound shot was blocked by Ryan McGivern.
There was very little action until the last 20 minutes when Darren King headed a free-kick onto the roof of the net.
The hosts had two chances to make things more comfortable. Chris Curran played a delightful through ball into the path of Joe Gormley and Murphy got a hand to the striker’s fierce effort.
Luke Turner then slipped Stephen Mallon through, and Murphy again did fantastically to block Mallon’s near post effort and keep his side in it.
Despite some late pressure the visitors were unable to leave North Belfast with a share of the spoils and Cliftonville returned to winning ways and would narrow the gap on leaders Linfield after their tea-time reversal to second place Larne.
CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Kearney, Addis, Kenny, Turner, Gallagher, Doherty (C Curran 72’), Rory Hale, Mallon, Ronan Hale (Ashford 86’), Wilson (Gormley 72’).
NEWRY CITY: Murphy, King, McGivern, McKeown, O’Connor (Mooney 41’), Carroll (Newell 67’), Lockhart, Salley, Bagnall, Forde, Poynton.
REFEREE: Christopher Morrison