Martin Donnelly celebrates scoring Cliftonville's third goal (Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye.com)
Tuesday, 04 February 2014
CLIFTONVILLE moved back to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with this victory over Ballymena United at a rainy, windswept Showgrounds.
Tommy Breslin's side started brightly, forcing United 'keeper Aaron Shanahan into action early on to deny Liam Boyce before Joe Gormley forced him into a couple of fine saves.
The Sky Blues responded with two efforts of their own as the half progressed before Jim Ervin tested Conor Devlin with a 25-yard drive.
But the deadlock was broken a minute from the break in freakish circumstances when Devlin punched the ball into his own net whilst attempting to clear Tony Kane's swirling free-kick.
However, within a minute, the Reds were back on level terms when a Martin Donnelly free-kick appeared to come off the head of United defender Mark Surgenor into the corner of the net.
Cliftonville moved in front six minutes into the second half when home skipper Johnny Taylor brought down Gormley inside the area with the big striker stepping up to blast the subsequent spot-kick past Shanahan.
With their numerical advantage the Reds easily contained whatever pressure United could exert although Darren Boyce really should have levelled with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining when he headed just wide from a Kane cross.
At the other end Diarmuid O'Carroll almost extended Cliftonville's lead but was denied by Shanahan who pushed his shot around an upright.
Cliftonville's third did arrive on 81 minutes, however, when Donnelly ended the game as a contest with a rasping drive from around 16 yards which appeared to take a slight deflection on its way past Shanahan.
Ballymena United: Shanahan, Ervin, Munster, Taylor, McBride, Surgenor, Kane, Thompson, Teggart, Davidson, Boyce subs Taggart, Ruddy, McCullagh, Lowry, McLellan
Cliftonville: Devlin, R. Scannell, Johnston, McMullan, Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Curran, Boyce subs Caldwell, O'Carroll, Winchester, Murray, Doherty
Referee: Colin Burns