GOALS at the end of either half from Chris Curran and Davy McDaid earned Cliftonville a deserved 2-0 win over Glentoran last night.
A healthy crowd turned out to watch the Reds’ first home game of the new Danske Bank Premiership season but, unfortunately for a sold-out away end, it was the hosts who brought their shooting boots with Curran and McDaid each finding the net on a night when the Glens – who introduced Nacho Novo from the bench to minimal effect for the final 23 minutes – simply failed to spark.
Evidently content to abide by the mantra of not changing a winning team, visiting boss Alan Kernaghan made no tactical amendments to the side which overcame Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, although Stephen O’Flynn’s injury did open the door for striker Curtis Allen to return following the completion of a one-match ban.
The Glens boasted a total of seven new faces from the panel which lost at Solitude in last season’s inaugural Europa League play-off, with former Portadown full-back Ross Redman, ex-Cliftonville defender Aaron Smyth, midfielder Eric Foley and Carrick Rangers’ old skipper Aaron Harmon once again named in the starting XI with Rangers cult hero Nacho Novo back on the bench following a late cameo at the weekend.
Though Glentoran got off to a winning start, the Reds stuttered to a 2-2 draw against newly-promoted Ards and, having threatened to ring a few changes, boss Gerard Lyttle made three alterations to his team – Chris Ramsey making his domestic debut in place of Caoimhin Bonner, Daniel Hughes replacing Davy McDaid up front and Jude Winchester stepping in for the injured James Knowles, with new signing Ruairi Harkin not yet fit enough for selection.
The Reds almost got off to a dream start when Martin Donnelly’s cross found Hughes inside the area but his flicked header kissed the post en route wide of the mark.
Jay Donnelly was also off target with a headed attempt before home appeals for a penalty – which came in the aftermath of Tomas Cosgrove taking a tumble under pressure from Redman – were waved away by referee Arnold Hunter.
The deadlock was broken 11 minutes before half-time when Ives’ delivery caused mayhem in the area and Curran reacted quickest to slam into the bottom corner.
Tomas Cosgrove was unfortunate not to extend the hosts’ advantage after the turnaround and, though Foley threatened with a free-kick, the Glens desperately lacked a cutting edge, with a late exertion of additional pressure punished on the breakaway when Stephen Garrett raced clear to provide McDaid with a simple finish.
CLIFTONVILLE: J Mooney, Ives, Ramsey, McGuinness, Curran, M Donnelly, Hughes, Catney, Winchester, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: McGovern, Bonner, McDaid (Hughes, 76 mins), Garrett (J Donnelly, 87 mins), D Murray.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Kane, Redman, Smyth, Birney, Addis, Foley, Caldwell, Allen, Smith, Harmon. Subs: D Nelson, Novo (Smith, 67 mins), K Nelson (Caldwell, 67 mins), Ferrin, Gordon.
REFEREE: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge).