Crusaders hit right note to inflict first home defeat of the season on Cliftonville
Cliftonville missed out on the chance to move back to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership as they suffered a first home defeat of the season going down 2-0 to derby rivals Crusaders.
Goals in either half from Paul Heatley and Ben Kennedy secured the points for the visitors in this rearranged fixture after it was initially postponed over the festive period.
It was a fairly low-key start at a snow-hit Solitude as both teams struggled to really carve out any chances of note.
The first real opportunity arrived for the Crues on the quarter hour after Ben Kennedy had been brought down by Jonny Addis.
Paul Heatley’s free kick into the box fell for Josh Robinson, but Addis reacted quickly to clear the danger before the defender could get a shot away.
A minute later Rory Hale won a corner which was headed over the target by Ryan Curran.
The Reds went close again seconds later after good work by Jamie McDonagh, as his cross was deflected into the side netting by Hale.
The midfielder’s night was to come to an abrupt end soon after though as Hale was replaced by Conor McDermott after picking up an injury.
Robinson then glanced a header off target from a Aidian Wilson free kick.
The hosts won a free kick before the half hour after McDermott was bundled over by Robinson.
Levi Ives could only find the wall from the set piece and Kris Lowe’s follow up was gathered by Jonny Tuffey.
Lowe forced Tuffey into action again on 34 minutes after he nicked the ball off Billy Joe Burns before racing clear on goal.
The defender did have the ball in the net five minutes later as he got on the end of Ronan Doherty’s cross, but it was quickly ruled out for offside.
Three minutes before the break the visitors broke the deadlock as Heatley slotted home after good work by Declan Caddell from a Kennedy cross.
The teams were greeted with another flurry of snow as they kicked off the second half.
The Reds didn’t let it deter them though as they pushed for an equaliser.
Addis defected another corner off his back and over the crossbar as they ramped up the pressure.
Philip Lowry and Chris Curran both saw yellow before the hour mark following a melee in the centre of the park as temperatures rose for the first time on a very cold night.
Another goal did arrive on 62 minutes and it was the visitors who were celebrating again as Luke McNicholas could only plam Ross Clarke’s powerful effort into Kennedy’s path and he gleefully headed home.
McDermott lashed a volley over before Addis glanced another header off target as Cliftonville laboured in front of goal.
Lowry headed straight at McNicholas from a Kennedy free kick before the Reds were denied twice in quick succession.
First Addis had a shot blocked by Clarke after Tuffey had spilled a cross, the loose ball fell for Doherty outside the box, but the keeper recovered well to beat away the shot.
Clarke had a late goal flagged for offside before Addis glanced an Ives corner on to the crossbar in stoppage time.