Belfast Telegraph

Dan Hughes fires Cliftonville to victory over Carrick

Carrick Rangers 1-2 Cliftonville

By David Mason

Daniel Hughes' last gasp wonder strike rescued Cliftonville at the Loughshore Hotel Arena.

The 24-year-old grabbed only his second goal for the club to gobble up three crucial points which keeps the Reds' European hopes alive.

Gerard Lyttle's boys have now edged to within two points of Glenavon in the table - with the teams due to clash at Solitude on Saturday.

But the result also sends Carrick Rangers plummeting deep into the relegation mire.

They too face a make or break outing at the weekend when visiting basement boys Warrenpoint Town.

It looked so good for Rangers when Andrew Doyle headed them into a first half lead. But Jay Donnelly evened things up with his 17th goal of the season, before Hughes took centre stage.

Peter Burke was called into action after only four minutes when Doyle's long punt forward was picked up by Adam Salley and, after holding off giant defender Johnny Flynn, his low drive was pushed for a corner by the Reds shot stopper.

And the Donegal man repeated the act minutes later.

This time the hard working Aaron Harmon found the visiting defence wanting with another hoof forward. Again Salley was on to it in a flash, but once more Burke got down to paw the effort to safety.

It was no surprise when Rangers did forge ahead on 20 minutes. Big James Wright whipped in a corner kick from the right and Doyle rose high above Flynn to power home a header.

If Burke rescued the Reds with those early saves, he held his head in embarrassment six minutes from the break when he made a total hash of Wright's free kick, after George McMullan had flattened Aaron Traynor, only to see Francis Brennan deflect the ball to safety.

Lyttle's side had to wait until 42 minutes before they fashioned an opening. Jude Winchester was chopped down by the outstretched leg of Doyle right on the edge of the box, but Darren Murray's free kick was brilliantly clutched by Brian Neeson.

Lyttle's half time lecture was still ringing in the ears of his players when referee Ian McNabb pointed to the spot after Stephen Garrett was tripped by the outstretched boot of Brian McCaul.

But Murray stepped up to blast his shot horribly wide.

The Reds had better luck on 55 minutes when Donnelly nicked an equaliser. Levi Ives' cross was met by the striker, whose header squirmed under Neeson.

Garrett then went close with a blistering 30 yard free kick that fizzed just over the top before Hughes' header from a Winchester cross just cleared the bar.

Donnelly then met another cross from Ives, but this time his header crashed against the post.

But Hughes had the final say, thundering home a cross from sub Ross Lavery right at the end to leave Rangers down and out.

CARRICK RANGERS: Neeson, McCaul, Traynor, Wright (Cherry 72 mins), Kelly (Chines 88 mins), Harmon, Johnston, Taggart, Doyle, Salley, McCloskey (Roy 81 mins).

Subs not used: Wallace, Kane.

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Hughes, Ives, Donnelly, Flynn Smyth, Winchester, McMullan (Lavery 82 mins), Brennan, Garrett, Murray (Curran 62 mins).

Subs not used: Gowdy, George, Henry.

Man of the match: Jay Donnelly

Match rating: 6/10.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Jordanstown)

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