C’VILLE 1 B’MALLARD 0
Martin Donnelly made it three goals in as many outings as Champions Cliftonville climbed into second place with a narrow success over Ballinamallard United.
The hosts were once again minus the services of tenacious midfielder Barry Johnston but were able to welcome Ryan Catney back to accompany George McMullan in the centre of the park, while David Kee’s suspension-enforced absence for the Mallards coincided with the return of Jason McCartney - a potentially lucky omen for the visitors, given it was he who plundered the winning goal when the Fermanagh side became the only team to overcome Cliftonville on home soil last season.
Up front, Whitey Anderson handed a start to Andy Crawford and, though the United boss has bemoaned a lack of firepower among his troops in recent times, opposite number Tommy Breslin has harboured no such concerns and was once again able to name Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce in attacking tandem.
But, though the Mallards struck the woodwork through Duwayne McManus and Crawford, it was Donnelly who made the difference when he lashed home after McMullan’s effort had come back off the post.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, McMullan, Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Murray, Boyce. Subs: McNally, C Scannell, O’Carroll (for Gormley, 79 mins), Cosgrove (for Murray, 84 mins), Doherty (for McMullan, 72 mins).
BALLINAMALLARD: Rouse, Keohane, Stafford, Hutchinson, Crawford, McCartney, Currie, Feeney, McManus, N Beacom, Campbell. Subs: Cashel, C Beacom (for Currie, 82 mins), Sheridan (for Crawford, 82 mins), Phair, Courtney (for McManus, 79 mins).
REFEREE: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)