Cliftonville 2–1 Glentoran
A first-half brace from Sean Moore was enough to see Cliftonville return to winning ways as they defeated Glentoran 2-1 to keep their title hopes alive at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
Despite being a doubt to take part pre-match after leaving Inver Park on crutches last weekend, 17-year-old Moore’s first-half double went a long way to helping his side to three points.
There were some nervy moments for Paddy McLaughlin’s side when Terry Devlin struck early in the second period, though they hung on for a third victory against the Glens this season and maintain the six-point deficit with league leaders Larne.
The Reds’ boss was pleased that his side delivered a response to last weekend’s setback and felt they were more than worthy of the points for their performance over the 90 minutes.
“We definitely got the response to last week, that’s what the challenge was set to all players,” McLaughlin revealed.
“Good sides and top sides bounce back straight away. They don’t dwell on things, they just get back to work.
“The boys trained well this week. I had a good feeling about them going into the game, especially at home. Out there, the boys have been incredible this year they were excellent as well.
“This year, our performances and our energy levels have been superb and we saw that in response to the big crowd again. It was sold out and they aren’t coming to watch a bad side. They’re coming to watch a top side working their socks off and have so much pride in the jersey.
“Fair play to the support, they were brilliant again today and fair play to Glentoran for bringing a full house down to their end as well too.
“The two sides went at it, but our boys were superb right throughout from minute one to 90. Usually, there are five or ten-minute spells where you’re thinking we’ve dipped our form or we’ve let it go a wee bit but I thought for 90 minutes we were excellent.”
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McLaughlin made two alterations to the side that was beaten 2-1 by Larne in the top-of-the-table clash last weekend.
Jamie McDonagh missed out through suspension and David Parkhouse dropped to the bench, with Aaron Traynor and Joe Gormley coming into the starting 11.
Cliftonville were first to threaten when Jonny Addis sent a long free kick towards Joe Gormley, whose angled effort was flashed across the face of goal.
The breakthrough arrived after 11 minutes and fell to Cliftonville. Ronan Doherty’s free-kick was headed clear by Aidan Wilson. Sean Moore picked up possession and played a one-two with Rory Hale before bending a low shot beyond the reach of Aaron McCarey and into the net.
Glentoran could have hit back immediately when Conor McMenamin slipped in Niall McGinn, but Nathan Gartside parried the former Dundee midfielder’s effort.
Rory Hale made a terrific block to shut down a potential effort from Marcus Kane on the edge of the box and at the other end Moore robbed Terry Devlin of possession but couldn’t keep his effort down.
The Glens went close again under controversial circumstances when they were awarded a corner, despite Chris Gallagher appearing to clear the ball behind off for a goal-kick off Niall McGinn.
Conor McMenamin’s delivery was flicked on by McGinn and Shay McCartan swivelled and shot inches past the near post.
It was a chance they would come back to rue as Cliftonville doubled their lead almost immediately.
Kris Lowe played a high ball out of defence that was headed half clear by Wilson, Sean Moore picked up the loose ball and played a one-two with Ronan Hale. Luke McCullough’s attempted clearance only assisted Moore with a sighting of goal, which the 17-year-old duly took advantage of.
Rodney McAree attempted to alter things immediately with the introduction of former Derry City striker Junior Uzokwe.
He almost made an instant impact with a flick-on from a McMenamin cross that crashed off the post.
Ronan Doherty then felled Terry Devlin on the edge of the box, but Shay McCartan curled his free-kick over the bar and at the break Moore’s double separated the sides.
Glentoran needed a fast start to the second period, and they halved the deficit within five minutes.
Niall McGinn’s free-kick rebounded off the wall, but he was able to clip the ball into the feet of Uzokwe. The substitute’s initial effort was blocked, and Terry Devlin powered the loose ball high into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
The game began to stretch after the hour mark. Joe Gormley robbed Wilson and charged towards the line before producing a cross that McCarey intercepted ahead of Moore.
The visitors immediately turned defence to attack with McGinn trying to pick out Uzowke in the area, but for a timely interception from Colin Coates at the expense of a corner.
Coates headed the resulting corner from McGinn away from danger and the winger delivered the ball back into the box where Aidan Wilson glanced wide.
Sean Moore had the chance to claim his hat-trick after running onto a superb diagonal pass from Coates and bearing down on goal, only for McCarey to turn his effort behind for a corner.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Conor McMenamin tumbled under contact with Chris Gallagher on the edge of the box. However, referee Evan Boyce wasn’t interested and play continued.
Rodney McAree’s side pushed for the leveller, but Cliftonville were resolute defensively and saw out time to bounce back from defeat at Inver Park with a victory that keeps them in second spot behind leaders Larne.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Coates, Traynor, Gallagher, Rory Hale (C Curran 79’), Doherty, Moore (R Curran 79’), Ronan Hale, Gormley (Parkhouse 80’).
GLENTORAN: McCarey, Kane, McCullough, Wilson, Burns (Whiteman 68’), McCartan (Singleton 68’), Marshall, R Donnelly (Uzowke 36’), Devlin (Plum 84’), McMenamin, McGinn (Purkis 84’).
REFEREE: Evan Boyce