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Cliftonville quick to set a high standard

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville began their defence of the WASP Solutions League Cup by making light work of Wakehurst in a strictly one-sided contest at Solitude. Two goals apiece from Davy McDaid and James Knowles in addition to single strikes for Joe Gormley and Martin Murray ensured the holders' safe passage to the third round.

Tommy Breslin made eight changes to the XI which had started the weekend's Premiership draw with Glenavon; veteran defender Ronan Scannell and strike duo Gormley and McDaid the triumvirate retaining their places.

Ryan Brown replaced Conor Devlin between the posts and Jaimie McGovern joined Eamonn Seydak and Tomas Cosgrove in returning to the backline.

Stephen Garrett, Jude Winchester, Knowles and Murray formed a new-look midfield as Breslin made use of the opportunity to rest some key personnel.

Opposite number Ian Gregg's aspirations of keeping things tight in the opening exchanges were blown out of the water inside a minute when, with goalkeeper Aodhan Tolan barely having assumed his position, the ball was in the back of the net thanks to a long-range strike from McDaid.

Knowles and Gormley each saw quickfire opportunities to double Cliftonville's advantage come and go and Tolan blocked a further Gormley effort.

Wakehurst didn't need any second invitation to enjoy their own forward expeditions, however, and Andrew Laughlin could count himself unfortunate to see a 20-yard attempt drift wide.

Winchester was next to shoot off-target for the hosts before Gormley was again denied by Tolan.

George Young went close to drawing the Magpies level with a chipped strike across the face of goal before the Reds saw no fewer than three opportunities go to waste in as many minutes.

The home lead was eventually extended on 42 minutes when McDaid and Gormley combined to send Knowles scampering through and the midfielder made no mistake in coolly slotting home.

Within a minute, Tolan's foul on Gormley earned a penalty which the striker stepped up to blast home and the one-way traffic continued after the interval with McDaid notching his second of the night after Murray had flicked a cross from Tomas Cosgrove in his direction.

The Reds introduced Jay Donnelly – younger brother of Swansea City's former Solitude starlet Rory – from the bench and his first contribution was an assertive run past Ryan Young and a delivery from which Murray couldn't fail to make it 5-0.

The sixth arrived on 73 minutes when Knowles' fierce strike found the bottom corner and the impressive Tolan caught the eye with saves from Curran and Winchester as well as a smart block to deny Knowles his hat-trick.

Wakehurst mustered one final opportunity in an attempt to secure a consolation strike but, from Conor Gregg's assist, Laughlin directed his right-footed effort wide.

CLIFTONVILLE: Brown, McGovern, Scannell, McDaid, Garrett, Knowles, Seydak, Winchester, Gormley, Murray, Cosgrove. Subs: Johnston, Curran (for McDaid, 61 mins), McMullan (for Garrett, 75 mins), Catney, J Donnelly (for Gormley, 61 mins).

WAKEHURST: Tolan, R Young, Price, Muir, Swann, Laughlin, Crawford, Melon, G Young, C Gregg, R Gregg. Subs: Cairns, Kirkwood (for G Young, 54 mins), Stevenson, Colville, Millar (for Melon, 77 mins).

Referee: Evan Boyce (Comber)

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