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Cliftonville 2 - 1 Warrenpoint: Winchester's double strike gets the Reds back in form

By Conor McLaughlin

Published 07/11/2015

Hey Jude: Chris Curran gives scorer Jude Winchester a pat on the head after the first of his two goals against Warrenpoint
Hey Jude: Chris Curran gives scorer Jude Winchester a pat on the head after the first of his two goals against Warrenpoint

Two Jude Winchester goals proved sufficient as Cliftonville made tough work of Warrenpoint Town.

The midfielder's quickfire strikes put the Reds in control at Solitude before Daniel Hughes' late response forced a grandstand finish that almost saw Town snatch an ill-deserved share of the spoils.

While home boss Gerard Lyttle had called for a return to winning ways following successive draws against Coleraine and Glenavon, opposite number Barry Gray's concerns were somewhat more severe.

Warrenpoint approached the contest on the back of eight consecutive Premiership defeats and without a league goal to their name since a 2-1 loss to Ballymena United on September 26 - a staggering 482 minutes of football - that left them rock-bottom of the table with just four points.

One ray of hope they could cling to as they made the journey to north Belfast was their incredible propensity to hit form when they have Cliftonville in their sights.

Dating back to their famous Irish Cup humiliation of the Solitude side back in 2011, Point have upset the odds time after time against the Reds, with the most recent such example being August's 2-2 draw between the sides at Milltown - an occasion which not only saw Warrenpoint collect their first point of the season, but which also produced the first goals Cliftonville had conceded after four previous shut-outs.

Last week's reverse against Ballinamallard United provoked Gray to lock his players in the changing room for an hour-long post-match rollicking and he made three changes to the side which flopped at Ferney; Mark Clarke, Dermot McVeigh and Mark Hughes coming in for Mark McCabe, Liam Bagnall and Stephen Moan.

Lyttle, meanwhile, welcomed back Conor Devlin, Jaimie McGovern as well as midfield duo Martin Donnelly and Winchester, but it was the familiar figure of Chris Curran to whom the night's first chances fell - an easily-gathered drive from distance, followed up by a miscue from 12 yards and a header over the top.

On 35 minutes, Jay Donnelly's cross evaded both Davy McDaid and Winchester before, on the stroke of half-time, Martin Donnelly blazed over after nipping in behind the visiting defence.

The same player was denied by a timely John Boyle intervention before the breakthrough finally arrived on 59 minutes when Winchester touched home at the far post after Shanahan had clawed Jay Donnelly's attempt across the face of goal.

Winchester made it 2-0 when he ghosted in behind the defence and though the keeper reacted to his first effort, there was nothing he could do to stop the midfielder nodding in at the second attempt.

Hughes pulled one back from a corner on 89 minutes, setting up a nervy finish which almost concluded with substitute Sean Donnelly cracking home a sumptuous last-gasp volley only for Devlin to make the save which preserved full points.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Flynn, Curran (Knowles 87 mins), McDaid, M Donnelly, Catney, Winchester (George 66 mins), J Donnelly (Mooney 79 mins), Cosgrove. Subs: Bonner, Garrett.

WARRENPOINT: Shanahan, Murphy (Moan 46 mins), Clarke (S Donnelly 77 mins), McVeigh, McDonald, D Hughes, S Hughes, Murray (McCabe 65 mins), Dane, M Hughes, Boyle. Subs: Breathnach, Flanagan.

Man of the match: Jude Winchester

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).

Belfast Telegraph

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