Cliftonville send out title message

Paddy McLaughlin’s Cliftonville sent out a chilling Danske Bank Premiership title warning with this impressive win over Glentoran at the BetMcLean Oval.

By Alex Mills
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 10:44 pm

It was Rory Hale who grabbed the only goal of the game to send the Reds into second place in the League table.

But it was another poor night at the office for Mick McDermott’s Glentoran, who still face the prospect of being dumped out of the Irish Cup after Joe Crowe played in the weekend win over Newry City, but still had to serve one game of a three-match ban. The Glens must now wait on the IFA deliberations on the issue.

Glens chief McDermott made three changes to his side drafting in Seanan Clucas, Darren Cole and Ruaidhri Donnelly.

Cliftonville players celebrate Rory Hale’s winner against Glentoran. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Jonathan Porter

Paddy McLaughlin’s boys are still the only team in the League that can achieve a treble trophy success this season, having booked their slot in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup last Friday following a hard-fought win over Coleraine.

It was no surprise boss man McLaughlin stuck with the same starting eleven.

It was a typical top of the table clash, with both sides reluctant to press forward with any degree of urgency.

Glentoran had an early opportunity when Hrvoje Plum’s corner kick fell to Jay Donnelly at the back post, but he totally fluffed his lines, scooping the ball wide.

The Reds had a scare on three minutes when Luke Turner’s attempted back pass to Luke McNicholas appeared to hold up in the wind, which allowed Clucas to pounce only for the goalkeeper get in a telling block.

Glentoran thought they had broken the deadlock on 10 minutes. Donnelly sent Conor McMenamin free on the left when his cross broke to Plum off the heel of Levi Ives, the big Croatian scored only for referee Tim Marshall to disallow the effort because of an offside infringement.

The Reds had to wait until 16 minutes to get a sight of goal at the other end. Ives sent in a cross from the left that was headed clear by Cole, and when Jamie McDonagh picked up the pieces, his left-footed volley flew high and wide.

Glentoran threatened again when Hale hauled down the energetic Clucas. When Plum whipped in the free kick from wide on the left, Jay Donnelly got up above everyone else only to see his header fly straight into the hands of McNicholas.

Just before the half-time cuppa, McMenamin again displayed his class on the left, twisting and turning past Turner, but with Jay Donnelly totally free in the middle, he elected to try his luck from a tight angle, with the ball fizzing hopelessly wide.

Cliftonville required merely six minutes after the restart to forge ahead. Turner and Daniel Kearns combined before finding Ryan Curran, who delightfully lofted the ball to Hale and his finish was emphatic, screwing the ball beyond the outstretched hand of McCarey.

Glentoran responded with Ruaidhri Donnelly picking out McMenamin with a great cross from the right, but he could only head straight at McNicholas.

Kris Lowe then produced a goal saving tackle for the Reds when Plum drilled in a low cross that was met by McMenamin, but the former Dungannon man got in a brilliant block.

Then, at the other end, McDonagh skipped past challenge after challenge before trying his luck from distance, but McCarey was equal to the effort, getting down low to parry clear.

The Reds almost grabbed a killer second goal 12 minutes from time following a brilliant solo run by Ives, who beat Clucas and Caolan Marron before finding Ryan Curran, whose shot came off the chest of Bobby Burns, with the visiting fans claiming a penalty.