Crusaders 0-3 Cliftonville
Cliftonville moved to within a point of Crusaders after thumping their North Belfast rivals 3-0 at Seaview on Monday evening.
Cricky Gallagher swept home from a corner to give the Reds the lead and a Rory Hale strike doubled their advantage at the break.
Jim Magilton’s side completed the rout early in the second half thanks to a goal from talisman Ben Wilson to cap off a fine derby win, their first at Seaview since December 2019, to the delight of their manager.
“Listen, when you come here you have to be prepared for a really tough game,” Magilton reflected.
“They never ever disappoint. We showed courage and bravery with the ball at times tonight. We showed real quality. We defended for our lives, and you have to do that. You have to be prepared to throw your body on the line and be courageous. I think we did that.”
David Odumosu was awarded his first league start of the season after impressing in recent cup outings, whilst Sean Stewart returned to the starting 11, having been with the NI U21 squad for their recent qualifiers.
The Reds began the game on the front foot with Ronan Doherty having an early penalty appeal waved away by referee Tony Clarke.
Luke Turner let fly from distance, but Jonny Tuffey was able to able gather with ease and the Crues’ ’keeper needed to be alert to thwart Odhran Casey at the back post a few minutes later.
At the other end, league debutant David Odumosu was forced to turn over a dangerous Daniel Larmour header from Ben Kennedy’s corner.
It was Cliftonville who would break the deadlock after 18 minutes as Rory Hale saw his low strike deflected behind for a corner and from the resulting set piece, Ronan Doherty picked out the run of Cricky Gallagher and the midfielder arrowed his shot into the top corner for his first goal of the season.
Crusaders were almost back on terms within two minutes, but Paul Heatley was unable to capitalise on an error from Odhran Casey.
The hosts breathed a huge sigh of relief midway through the half when Ben Wilson appeared to have doubled Cliftonville’s advantage, only for the offside flag to curtail the celebrations.
Cliftonville would double their lead before the break, however. Goal scorer Gallagher ran at the heart of the Crusaders defence before slipping the ball to Rory Hale to slot low past Tuffey and give his side a 2-0 lead at the interval.
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter introduced Ross Clarke at the interval as he sought a response, and the hosts almost pulled a goal back early in the second period.
Paul Heatley dug out a cross that flicked on by Adam Lecky into the path of Philip Lowry, but Sean Stewart was in the right place to avert the subsequent danger.
It appeared as though Cliftonville had wrapped up all three points on the 55th minute when Rory Hale picked out Ben Wilson in the area and the Reds’ top scorer turned and fired low past Tuffey to make it 3-0.
Despite a comfortable advantage, there was a degree of caution amongst the visiting support – after all the Reds had been in a similar position seven years earlier and suffered a 4-3 defeat to their derby rivals at Seaview.
A repeat never looked on the cards as Crusaders failed to offer any resistance and it was Cliftonville who had the chances to further extend their lead.
Sam Ashford was twice unable to steer home his first goal of the club, the second of misses from a promising half volley, whilst Rory Hale spurned the opportunity to grab his second of the evening.
It mattered little in the end as Jim Magilton’s side ran out convincing 3-0 winners to claim the North Belfast bragging rights on the Shore Road for the first time in almost four years.
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, BJ Burns, Lowry, Kennedy, Lecky (Owens 62’), Forsythe (Weir 62’), O’Rourke, Larmour, Smith (Clarke 46’), Heatley (Teelan 83’), McKeown.
CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Lowe, Addis, Casey, Turner, Stewart, Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale (C Curran 88’), Ashford, Wilson (Gormley 85’).
REFEREE: Tony Clarke