Belfast Telegraph

Lyttle hails unlucky Lavery as Reds make it 11 on the spin against Ports

Cliftonville 1 Portadown 0

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle cited Ross Lavery's attitude as an example of the togetherness in his squad.

Lavery was the unfortunate man to make way after just 27 minutes of Saturday's victory over Portadown as Lyttle introduced central defender Caoimhin Bonner from the bench in reaction to Jason McGuinness' dismissal - and the Reds boss revealed he had barely had time to explain his thought process to the 20-year-old.

"I just said 'sorry but I wanted a bit more experience out there' and he replied 'I understand, gaffer'. He knew it was for the good of the team and he just accepted it, which was first-class.

"Ross is a good kid. He's smart, he works hard and he'll always give you a hundred per cent and he didn't feel sorry for himself or throw the head up, he knew we were going to be up against it with us being down to 10 men and he accepted my decision.

"As a manager, that's the kind of attitude you dream of in a player. We've everybody pulling in the same direction and we saw from the performance and the way the players dug in that there's a really good spirit about them."

The only goal of the game came on 17 minutes when Levi Ives' speculative attempt was turned into his own net by Garry Breen and, though Cliftonville - who have now recorded 11 consecutive clean sheet victories over the Ports - had the upper hand on the scoreboard, the visitors would garner a numerical advantage when McGuinness was sent off shortly afterwards.

The Reds skipper received his marching orders when, following a melee in the aftermath of Mark McAllister's challenge on goalkeeper Peter Burke, referee Evan Boyce acted on his assistant's view that McGuinness had nodded his head into Breen's.

Bonner would, in tandem with Jaimie McGovern, go on to produce a masterful display at the heart of the home defence to blunt the threat of both Mark McAllister and half-time sub Aaron Haire - but a late tangle with Ken Oman which left Bonner minus two teeth should, in Lyttle's opinion, have also seen Portadown reduced to 10 men.

He felt that Oman had swung an elbow as the duo contested a high ball, however the visitors' debutant manager Niall Currie said his centre-half had claimed a clash of heads.

The Ports new supremo added: "We just didn't do enough in my opinion.

"I now see what people have been telling me since I took the job and I've a better idea on where and how we need to improve.

"I'll be looking to strengthen in January, no question about that."

 

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, McGovern, Ives (M Donnelly, 70 mins), McGuinness, Curran, Knowles, McDaid (Reynolds, 90 mins), Garrett, Winchester, Lavery (Bonner, 27 mins), Cosgrove. Unused subs: J Mooney, Catney.

PORTADOWN: McGaughey, Shannon, Breen, Oman, Carson (Haire, 46 mins), O'Hara, Henderson (Byrne, 74 mins), Mackle (Simpson, 64 mins), McAllister, Garrett, Hughes. Unused subs: Larkin, Parker.

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)

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