Cliftonville 4 Lisburn Distillery 0: Cliftonville restored their seven point lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a somewhat flattering 4-0 defeat of Lisburn Distillery on Monday night.
Ahead through Joe Gormley, the Reds were often less than convincing against a battling Whites outfit whose hopes of staging a comeback were well and truly snuffed out when Liam Boyce doubled the hosts’ advantage in the second half.
Further strikes from Barry Johnston and James Knowles added a touch of gloss to proceedings for Tommy Breslin’s men, who clocked up a very welcome third clean sheet in succession in front of a healthy Solitude crowd.
A miscue from visiting skipper Philip Simpson almost sent Gormley’s low cross into the path of Boyce in the opening minutes before Jordan Hughes’ fizzing drive called upon Reds keeper Conor Devlin to turn the ball around the post.
The breakthrough came on 16 minutes and it was entirely of Gormley’s own doing.
There seemed next to no danger when the birthday boy received possession on the corner of the penalty area, but after a touch took him away from Simpson, he gave keeper Lee Windrum no chance with a confident finish.
Falling behind seemed to spark the Whites into life and they embarked upon a spell of sustained pressure that saw them force a host of goalmouth scrambles and corners that they were ultimately unable to take advantage of.
Windrum then showed a strong right hand to keep out Donnelly’s low drive before Distillery had strong claims for a penalty waved away by referee Tim Marshall, who deemed that a tangle of legs inside the area favoured neither side, while David McCullough’s follow-up was off target.
Cliftonville improved slightly after the interval with Boyce and then Gormley bringing saves out of Windrum before Marc Smyth nodded wide from Donnelly’s corner delivery.
The longer it stayed at 1-0, the more nervous the home crowd seemed to grow and so it was more with relief than joy that they greeted Boyce’s 72nd minute header that seemed to knock the stuffing out of Distillery.
Reds boss Tommy Breslin made a double change on 79 minutes with Diarmuid O’Carroll and Johnston entering the fray and it was the latter who increased his team’s advantage further when he swept home with his first touch.
There was still time for things to get worse still for Distillery, who conceded for the fourth and final time when Knowles tucked a neat strike past Windrum at the end of a flowing team move a minute from time.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, McMullan, Garrett, Donnelly, Smyth, Catney, Gormley, Knowles, Boyce. Subs: Johnston (for Catney, 79 mins), O’Carroll (for Garrett, 79 mins), Seydak, Lynch, Cosgrove (for McMullan, 34 mins).
LISBURN DISTILLERY: Windrum, Smyth, Simpson, Davidson, McCullough, Liggett, Traynor, Melly, Ferguson, Hughes, Forsythe. Subs: Brennan, Hall (for Forsythe, 72 mins), Kopyt, Beggs (for Davidson, 83 mins), Halliday (for Melly, 77 mins).
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).