Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle proud as Reds shun Glentoran's Nacho Novo hype
Cliftonville 2-0 Glentoran
Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle paid tribute to his team's focus as the Reds kick-started their Danske Bank Premiership campaign with a 2-0 victory over Glentoran last night.
Goals from Chris Curran and Davy McDaid helped erase the memory of Saturday's frustrating opening draw with Ards and, having made a number of changes to his line-up, the Solitude supremo was thrilled with the outcome - and how his players handled an occasion where all eyes were on Nacho Novo's first away game in Glens colours.
"I thought we were superb everywhere on the pitch," he said. "Every player knew their job and did it well. We had a new central defensive partnership of Jason McGuinness and Chris Ramsey, who've never played together, but they were excellent and there's not a single player I can't give credit to.
"There was a lot of hype about Novo's arrival in the Irish League but, even when he came on, our players knew their jobs wouldn't change and they didn't allow themselves to be distracted by the crowd or anything else. It was a really professional job."
The Reds made a disappointing start to their campaign when they were twice pegged back by newly-promoted Ards on the opening day and it was one of the changes to the line-up - striker Daniel Hughes - who almost made an instant breakthrough only for his second-minute header to whistle just wide.
Jay Donnelly nodded over from a Levi Ives cross and Tomas Cosgrove had penalty appeals turned away as the Reds took the game to their visitors but, once Glentoran garnered a foothold, the contest degenerated into a territorial battle with neither team able to make significant inroads - until Curran pounced after 34 minutes.
Martin Donnelly and Ives combined on the left and, when the latter's cross wasn't converted by either Hughes or Jay Donnelly, the ball dropped for Curran to spin and power a drive past Elliot Morris.
The second period was likewise lacking in any serious goalmouth action and, though Novo was sprung from the bench with a quarter of the contest remaining, the Reds looked comfortable and wrapped things up with the last kick of the game when McDaid touched home after fellow substitute Stephen Garrett had danced his way round Morris.
Glens boss Alan Kernaghan admitted his disappointment but said he wouldn't be reading too much into anything. He said: "The way we've played in our friendlies didn't materialise out there. We were maybe caught in the headlights a little bit.
"We worked on a specific aspect of our play that was perhaps taken too literally. There were too many long balls and they were able to deal with them.
"I'm disappointed but not too much because I believe in the quality we have in our squad."
Cliftonville: J Mooney, Ives, Ramsey, McGuinness, Curran, M Donnelly, Hughes, Catney, Winchester, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: McGovern, Bonner, McDaid (Hughes, 76 mins), Garrett (J Donnelly, 87 mins), D Murray.
Glentoran: Morris, Kane, Redman, Smyth, Birney, Addis, Foley, Caldwell, Allen, Smith, Harmon. Subs: D Nelson, Novo (Smith, 67 mins), K Nelson (Caldwell, 67 mins), Ferrin, Gordon.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)
Match rating : 6/10
Man of match: Levi Ives