Cliftonville 1 Carrick Rgrs 0
Cliftonville were grateful to new boy Martin Donnelly for getting their Carling Premiership campaign off on a winning note at Solitude on Saturday.
The tricky winger, nabbed from north Belfast rivals Crusaders during the summer, popped up with the only goal of the game seven minutes from time to condemn top-flight newcomers Carrick Rangers to a harsh defeat.
Stephen Small's troops had battled gamely throughout and would have been worthy of the point they looked certain to claim before Donnelly's intervention following a deflected Joe Gormley strike.
“Carrick deserved more but that's just how it goes sometimes,” said Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin afterwards.
“It's not a match we'll look back on fondly. We knew it wouldn't be easy because Carrick were always going to give it everything but we just seemed to slack off after the opening few minutes and we found it very tough to work our way back into things.
“At the end of the day, though, we got the three points and that's what matters. Every team targets a win on the opening day of the season and I'm not too concerned about the manner in which we got it.”
While it was the hosts who claimed the day's only strike, Carrick had always looked the more likely to break the deadlock with former Cliftonville favourite David McAlinden going agonisingly close with two headers either side of a breathtaking free-kick.
If Carrick didn't know their luck was up when Anto Lagan's miskick was punished by Donnelly's goal, they certainly got the message when Paul McDowell's audacious 35-yard strike cannoned against the crossbar.
Even so, they continued to press in search of a late leveller and McDowell had the ball in the net from a Lagan delivery only for celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.