Bet McLean League Cup Round Two
Harland and Wolff Welders 0-3 Cliftonville
HOLDERS Cliftonville advanced to the third round of the Bet McLean League Cup after a 3-0 win over Harland and Wolff Welders at Blanchflower Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Ronan Hale fired home the opener midway through the first half, and it wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that the North Belfast side put the tie beyond doubt.
Substitute Joe Gormley emerged from the bench and claimed a brace to make it safe passage into the last-16 draw to the delight of boss Paddy McLaughlin – who felt his side were forced to work for the win.
“It was tough enough game,” he reflected.
“Goosey (Robert) Robinson has done a brilliant job so far, he’s two games in and he’s had a 5-0 victory and they ran us very close there right throughout the match. He’s done brilliant so far and he’s only in the job.
“It was tough to break them down, they were well organised and well set-up, so we’re delighted to get the win. It was all about getting into the next round - that was the main thing.
“Three goals and a clean-sheet, we’re happy enough to get out of here still in the hat- that was the main thing.”
McLaughlin named his strongest available squad after having a free weekend with their league encounter with Glentoran postponed on Friday evening.
It was a slow burner in a pretty uneventful opening quarter of an hour at Blanchflower Park as both sides struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.
Michael McLellan let fly with an effort that drifted wide for the hosts and Ronan Hale then curled an effort into the arms of Welders’ ’keeper Sam Johnston.
A few minutes later, Aaron Traynor clipped in a cross that Kris Lowe glanced into the side netting as the holders upped the ante.
The breakthrough arrived midway through the first half when Ronan Hale latched onto a slipped pass and dinked the ball expertly over Sam Johnston for his fourth goal of the season.
🏆 All the results in an action packed first round of the BetMcLean League Cup tonight ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/xVQTPO5ieT— NI Football League (@OfficialNIFL) September 13, 2022
Just after the half hour mark, Cliftonville missed the chance to double their advantage.
Chris Gallagher tried an angled effort that Johnston comfortably gathered and after the Reds won back possession, Ronan Hale threaded a pass through to Ryan Curran whose low shot was clawed to safety by Johnston.
The Welders ended the half strongly and thought they had levelled on 38 minutes when Michael McLellan nodded past Nathan Gartside, but the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations.
McLellan then controlled a pass from Johnston and delivered a teasing cross that evaded Charlie Dornan in the area and at the break it remained 1-0 to the holders.
The Reds started the second period brightly with Kris Lowe rolling an effort past the post and then Chris Curran flashed an effort into the side netting.
But the Welders came into proceedings as on-loan Crusaders defender Lewis Patterson drove forward and shot from a tight angle at Gartside, which the Reds shot-stopper gathered.
Patterson then disposed Ronan Doherty and showed his pace again, this time he opted to slip in substitute Eric Akassou who shot wide.
Akassou called Gartside into action moments later with a snapshot that the former Derry City ’keeper turned over the bar.
Defence then turned to attack and Cliftonville wrapped the game up at the other end. On 71 minutes goal scorer Hale unselfishly rolled the ball across to Joe Gormley to tap-home and make it 2-0.
Gormley would double his tally before the night was out after latching onto Kris Lowe’s ball in behind and having the composure to dink the ball over Sam Johnston to make it 3-0 at the conclusion and make it a safe passage into Round Three.
H&W WELDERS: Johnston, Patterson, McCarthy (Flynn 78’), Wright, Owens, Byers, Deans (Akassou 64’), Wilson, Dornan (McGuigan 85’), McLellan (McDowell 78’), Barr (Kinner 64’).
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Turner, Traynor (Coates 78’), Doherty (Casey 82’), Gallagher, C Curran (Moore 78’), McDonagh (Gormley 56’), R Curran, R Hale.
REFEREE: Shane Andrews