NIFL Premiership

Cliftonville 3–0 Dungannon Swifts 

Cliftonville made it three wins on the bounce with a routine 3-0 win over Dungannon Swifts at Solitude on Tuesday evening. 

In-form Michael McCrudden headed the hosts ahead before the break and centre-half Ryan O’Reilly doubled the lead a few minutes after the break. 

McCrudden doubled his tally just after the hour mark and thereafter, Paddy McLaughlin’s side ran out convincing winners. 

However, the manager felt their lead came against the run of play and was impressed with the Swifts. 

“Our first goal was probably a wee bit against the run of play because I thought at that stage Dungannon were on top,” reflected McLaughlin. 

“They were playing some brilliant stuff. The league takes a bit of criticism for some of the performances and football that teams play.

“I think some of the teams can be a bit direct, but some of the football that Dungannon played was super and they were definitely on top. 

“The goal probably came against the run of play but I think we settled into the game after the goal and I think we took control of it from then on in. 

“Some of the football and goals and chances we created in the second-half was fantastic to watch and good to see. 

“I think it was well deserved, the clean sheet earned and I was delighted that Michael that he scored three on Saturday and two again tonight – he is on fire at the minute.” 

But it was Dungannon Swifts who started brightly at Solitude and had the first opportunity through Shane McGinty after being slipped through by Ben Gallagher, but Aaron McCarey produced an outstanding save. 

Midway through the first-half, James Convie twisted and turned but shot straight at McCarey and seconds later, Gallagher slipped in Rhyss Campbell who dragged his shot across the face of goal. 

It took 24 minutes for Cliftonville to really threaten for the first time: Aaron Donnelly played a short corner with Rory Hale and guided a pinpoint cross into the area where Jamie Harney rose to head against the underside of the bar. 

Just before the half-hour mark, Daire O’Connor got in behind and cut the ball back to Chris Curran whose shot was steered off the line by Ethan McGee. 

The deadlock was eventually broken on 33 minutes when a fantastic cross from the left by O’Connor was met by the head of Michael McCrudden who continued his hot goal scoring form to make it four in the last two games and take his tally to eight for the season. 

Cliftonville missed the chance to extend their lead in the aftermath with Ryan Curran attempting to round Roy Carroll and seeing his effort blocked by the Swifts ’keeper. 

Michael McCrudden was denied his second of the evening by Carroll and just before the break, Ryan O’Reilly emerged from defence and wasn’t too far away with his effort that landed on the roof of the net as McCrudden’s goal was the difference at the interval. 

McCrudden almost doubled his tally a few minutes into the second-half with a first-time effort that Carroll had to scramble past the post and behind, but a goal came from the resulting set-piece. 

Michael McCrudden netted a brace on Tuesday following his hat-trick at the weekend

Michael McCrudden netted a brace on Tuesday following his hat-trick at the weekend

Rory Hale played a short corner to Daire O’Connor whose pass across the area was flicked-on by McCrudden and it fell to Ryan O’Reilly who slotted home to score his first goal for the club. 

The Swifts almost replied instantly through Shane McGinty’s looping cross that was headed onto the roof of the net by Callum Byers with McCarey scrambling. 

Just after the hour mark, the scoring was complete when Aaron Donnelly picked out the run of Michael McCrudden who latched onto it and lofted it over Roy Carroll to claim his second of the night and make it 3-0. 

A fourth may have arrived with little over a quarter of an hour remaining but Carroll denied Ryan Curran and Ryan O’Reilly hooked the ball goal-wards and was denied by Oisin Smyth on the line. 

It mattered little as Cliftonville convincingly claimed all three points and took advantage of slip-ups by Ballymena and Crusaders in the race for a top-six place and narrowed the gap on Glentoran in third to just three points. 

CLIFTONVILLE: McCarey, Lowe, O’Reilly, Harney (Breen 76), Donnelly, C Curran, Bagnall (Coffey 78), Hale, O’Connor (O’Brien 85), R Curran, McCrudden. 

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Carroll, Byers, O Smyth, Campbell, Gallagher (O’Kane 76), Carvill, McGinty (Mayse 60), Convie, Glenny (Patton 60), McGee, M Smyth. 

REFEREE: Ross Dunlop