CLIFTONVILLE 1 PORTADOWN 0
A solitary Jay Donnelly header was enough to earn Cliftonville full points against Portadown at Solitude.
The striker seized upon a 33rd minute delivery from namesake Martin to nod in at the far post with a conversion that was sufficient to maintain his side’s two-year winning streak against the Ports.
Home boss Gerard Lyttle was able to call upon the services of the three players who limped off in last week’s victory over Ballinamallard United but, while Levi Ives and James Knowles retained their places, George McMullan dropped to the bench and, with ex-Ports striker Darren Murray ruled out as part of a gentleman’s agreement between the clubs following his transfer earlier in the month, the Reds handed a first start to fellow new recruit Daniel Hughes.
The visitors, meanwhile, gave veteran goalkeeper David Miskelly the nod between the sticks following days of speculation over whether or not the former Oldham stopper would be fit enough to make the grade. With regular back-up Billy Brennan having sealed a switch to Larne in midweek and fellow back-up Conor Larkin’s availability uncertain due to suspension, boss Ronnie McFall had little choice other than to recall Miskelly – who has been out of action in recent times through a combination of injury and family commitments – to his line-up.
New signing Philip Lowry once again started in midfield, with Mikey Withers – snapped up from Lisburn Distillery a few days earlier – joining Marcio Soares, Chris Ramsey, Mark McAllister and Tim Mouncey on a strong Portadown bench.
Lowry went close for the Mid-Ulster men ahead of Miskelly saving from Chris Curran and Jay Donnelly before the deadlock was broken when Levi Ives teed Martin Donnelly up for a cross which Jay converted.
The visitors improved after the break and should have levelled on 66 minutes when Chris Casement’s cross picked out Lowry but his point-blank diving header was straight at Conor Devlin.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Knowles, Curran, M Donnelly, Smyth, Catney, J Donnelly, Cosgrove, Hughes. Subs: Bonner, McMullan (M Donnelly, 83 mins), McDaid (Hughes, 75 mins), Garrett (Curran, 75 mins), George.
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Redman, O’Hara, Mackle, Oman, Lowry, Gault, Parker, Twigg, Garrett. Subs: Ramsey, McAllister (Parker, 46 mins), Mouncey, Soares (Mackle, 75 mins), Withers.
REFEREE: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)