Belfast Telegraph

Red hot Gormley and Boyce sink Seasiders

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville coasted past Bangor's spirited challenge to book their place in the semi-finals of the League Cup.

Two ahead at the interval thanks to a Barry Walsh own goal and Liam Boyce finish, Joe Gormley's brace made absolutely sure of things after the break as the Reds made it a long overdue two wins in succession.

The visitors' strict organisation made it difficult for Cliftonville to really impose themselves on proceedings for long stretches of the first period and, playing in straight lines across the park, there was little to capture the imagination before a much improved second-half which could have delivered more goals than were ultimately produced.

Tommy Breslin made just two changes to the side which had overcome Ballymena United on Premiership duty little more than 72 hours earlier, with injuries sustained in that game ruling both George McMullan and Ronan Scannell out of contention.

Their absences did, however, coincide with the end of Marc Smyth's two-game ban and a return to fitness for Eamonn Seydak, meaning that the champions and Cup holders were otherwise unchanged as boss Breslin seeks to piece some momentum together ahead of the season entering its pivotal months.

Bangor, meanwhile, had also faced a stiff weekend test in the form of a hard-fought away win over struggling Limavady United and were not short of their own injury woes with Marc Whitford once again sidelined, while neither Darren Stuart nor Anthony McGonnell could feature under the terms of their loan moves from Solitude.

The hosts made the brighter start with Stephen Garrett bringing a fifth minute save out of Paul Cairnduff, who was left helpless just 60 seconds later when Walsh found the back of his own net in attempting to deal with Martin Donnelly's free-kick delivery.

Bangor did threaten through Thomas Lambe's header from a Jordan Forsythe cross, but it was at the other end where the next goal always looked most likely to arrive.

Dean Youle then prevented Donnelly from converting Garrett's 19th minute cross before Walsh was perfectly placed to block Smyth's strike.

The second goal eventually arrived on 37 minutes and, once again, the Seasiders will not be best pleased with the defending which allowed Jaimie McGovern's left-footed cross to find Boyce at the far post, the striker making no mistake with a cool conversion.

Home keeper Conor Devlin's first meaningful involvement was a strong-handed save to keep Ethan Boylan at bay. The first period ended with Cairnduff clawing a Smyth header off the line and the second began with substitute Andy Morrow going close to reducing the deficit only to drag his powerful attempt off target.

Cairnduff then kept Boyce out and Devlin saved Lambe's half-volley before Cliftonville grabbed the security of a third goal when Boyce threaded Gormley through and, after committing the keeper with a smart drop of the shoulder, he casually stroked the ball into the empty net.

Man of the match Boyce came close to bagging his second but Cairnduff reacted quickly to claim the ball before the striker could get it under any sort of control.

Substitute Diarmuid O'Carroll almost registered the Reds' fourth from distance but the night's final say would belong to Gormley, who smashed home from close range following Martin Murray's inch-perfect cross.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Johnston, McNally, Garrett, Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Boyce. Subs: C Scannell, O'Carroll (for Donnelly, 80 mins), McNeill, Murray (for Garrett, 80 mins), Doherty (for McNally, 64 mins).

BANGOR: Cairnduff, Long, Hylands, Youle, Nixon, Melly, Walsh, Cooling, Forsythe, Boylan, Lambe. Subs: Morrow (for Forsythe, 46 mins), O'Neill (for Boylan, 73 mins), Mann, Hall (for Melly, 46 mins), Gibbons.

Referee: Colin Burns (Comber).

Belfast Telegraph


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