Cliftonville in cruise control
Published 19/03/2013 | 08:00
There are tell-tale signs that even cautious Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin is getting in the mood to celebrate a first league title in 15 years.
Breslin was his usual ice-cool self as his silky city slickers took yet another giant step towards wrapping up the Gibson Cup.
Two clinical finishes from Ciaran Caldwell and a third from Liam Boyce were enough to see off the gutsy challenge of Glenavon at Mourneview Park.
Mark Farren did head a consolation for Gary Hamilton's battlers but it was a mere gesture near the end of another success story for the men from Solitude.
As the growing Red and White Army were in full throttle chanting 'Championes, Championes', Breslin took a step back and, in more quiet surroundings, made his usual calm appraisal of the situation.
"We're in a very, very good position," he said without even a hint of a smile and resisting the temptation to claim the race is all over bar the shouting. That even though 17 points now separate his side from the chasing pack.
But suddenly, when asked how disappointed he would be to lose out now and if he would feel suicidal, he volunteered with a knowing grin then an outburst of laughter: "I would be a bit more than suicidal."
He need not worry. That's the most unlikely of scenarios now that the Reds have stretched their Premiership winning streak to 12 matches.
Caldwell was the goalscoring hero as he emerged from the shadow of the terrible twins Boyce and Joe Gormley.
And his efforts certainly pleased Breslin, who declared: "I'm delighted for him. He deserves all the glory he'll get because he has had a tough season.
"He was out injured for a while but now he's back he gives us something different, gets in the box and is scoring goals."
Breslin was magnanimous in victory, paying tribute to the efforts of Glenavon who, if they are not careful, could face yet another anxious end to the season.
He said: "Glenavon put it up to us and, if they produced performances like this every week, they would be a lot higher in the league."
Rival boss Hamilton reckoned his side had not been disgraced by the champions-elect and had the better of the chances in the first half but didn't take them.
He said: "I thought their second goal was offside and we should have had a penalty and one of their players sent off."
But he was in no mood to take away from Cliftonville's heroics in this campaign, adding: "They are not crowned yet but they will go on and win it."
Caldwell struck his first in the run up to the break just when the home side were thinking their game plan to curtail hotshots Boyce and Gormley was working.
And Caldwell's second just three minutes into the second half effectively put the game beyond Glenavon. His first was a clever flick from Ryan Catney's cross and the second a tap in at the back post which, as Hamilton claimed, looked suspiciously offside.
Boyce's obligatory strike for the third went in off a post before Mark Farren climaxed a bizarre goalmouth scramble with a header which dropped just under Conor Devlin's crossbar.
It was only the sixth goal Cliftonville had conceded in 12 games and that surely is title winning form.