Cliftonville end Oval jinx to keep title bid alive
Glentoran 0 - Cliftonville 2
Cliftonville enjoyed a rare victory in east Belfast last night to keep their flickering title hopes alive. It was their first league success at The Oval since September 2011, courtesy of goals from Jay Donnelly and Stephen Garrett.
The victory propelled Gerard Lyttle's boys into third place in the Danske Bank Premiership table, but they still trail leaders and current champions Crusaders by a whopping 10 points.
Lyttle demanded an improvement following his team's 3-1 home defeat to Coleraine at the weekend - and to a certain extent, he got it.
The Reds, playing in yellow shirts, got off to a dream start thanks to Donnelly - his 15th of the season. He was picked out by a delicious pass from George McMullan on six minutes and, when confronted by Elliott Morris, the striker delightfully slipped the ball home.
It could have been two seconds later. Again, the alert McMullan was involved, threading a pass into the path of Daniel Hughes, but this time Morris was out like a flash to smother.
That stung the Glens into action and they could well have been level on eight minutes only for a magnificent save from Conor Devlin, who managed to flip a Curtis Allen drive over.
From Jonathan Smith's corner kick, defender Calum Birney hooked a decent chance over the crossbar.
Allen again went close for the home team, storming to the near post to meet a Chris Lavery cross, but he couldn't direct his header on target.
The Glens were really out of luck on 19 minutes. Veteran defender Barry Holland tried a speculative 25-yard drive that Devlin did well to divert, Johnny McGovern mopping up the rebound.
But the Reds were always dangerous on the break and, in a lightning move, Garrett's raking pass picked out Donnelly, whose volley from a narrow angle stung the hands of Morris.
Then, just before the interval, Devlin rode his luck when he got down to deal with an Allen free-kick - he somehow managed to scoop the ball over the crossbar.
Cliftonville stormed from the traps after the break with Garrett taking a return pass from Davy McDaid before firing into the side netting.
It was McDaid's turn to fluff his lines on 50 minutes when he put in the clear by Hughes before curling his effort over.
But the Reds did finally make their pressure count on 57 minutes. Hughes threaded a peach of a pass through the middle and Garrett did the rest, dinking the ball over the diving Morris.
It could well have been three on 76 minutes, but Hughes was unable to register his first goal in a Cliftonville shirt, instead blasting an excellent chance wide of the mark.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Holland, Kane, Magee (Gibson 46), Birney, Rice, Addis, Lavery, Allen (Patton 60), Smith, Caldwell (Scullion 76).
Subs not used: McCormick, Morrow.
Cliftonville: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Bonner, Flynn, McMullan (Knowles 82), McDaid, Garrett, Catney, J Donnelly (Curran 73), Hughes (Winchester 88).
Subs not used: M Donnelly, Murray.
Match rating: 6/10.
Man of the match: Stephen Garrett
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Dundonald).