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Martin Donnelly (41)
Liam Boyce (71)

2

Gary Thompson (90 2)

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Martin Donnelly gives Cliftonville the lead just before half-time (Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye.com)

REDS WIN TABLE TOPPING CLASH TO INCH CLEAR

CLIFTONVILLE emerged victorious from this visit of Ballymena United to Solitude to open up a slender lead at the top of the table.

Although scoreless in the opening half-an-hour both sides had their moments of promise.

Barry Holland had the first effort of note early in proceedings while Ryan Catney also tested United 'keeper Dwayne Nelson.

For the visitors Alan Teggart forced a good save from Conor Devlin followed a by rasping David Cushley drive which was deflected to safety.

Eamon Seydak then came close with a header which dropped the wrong side of the near post.

But the deadlock was broken four minutes from the break after Marty Donnelly made the most of some sloppy defending to finish with a left-foot shot from a Liam Boyce backheel.

And the Reds might have doubled their advantage not long after from a George McMullan dipping volley which Nelson did well to keep out.

United might have levelled early in the second half with a long range Cushley drive which was gathered by Devlin.

Then Johnny Taylor got his head to a Tony Kane cross but was again thwarted by the impressive Devlin.

At the other end the Reds almost doubled their advantage when Boyce flashed a volley past Nelson's left-hand post.

However, Boyce went one better on 71 minutes with a header from four yards out after connecting with a cross from the right to put the issue beyond doubt.

Gary Thompson pulled one back for the Sky Blues in stoppage time but it wasn't enough to prevent a first defeat of the season.

Referee:

Attendance: 905

Tags:  Ballymena United  Cliftonville