Neeson stands tall as Cliftonville left frustrated by Rangers
Cliftonville 0 Carrick Rangers 0
Carrick Rangers pocketed the point they set out for at Solitude last night as Cliftonville drew a blank on a frustrating night for the hosts. Chance after chance came and went and, with Gers keeper Brian Neeson in inspired form, the east Antrim outfit weathered a first-half storm before showing stern resolve after the interval to see the job through.
With Daniel Hughes still suspended following the controversial red card he picked up when the sides met just before Christmas, Davy McDaid continued to lead the Cliftonville line but it was the returning Jude Winchester who had all of the first-half's best chances.
After sending one effort just wide of the mark, he saw a half-volley repelled by Neeson before the keeper thwarted him for a second time, with James Knowles' follow-up whistling just past the post.
Jason McGuinness was next to try his luck before Winchester saw an attempt charged down by Hanley and, though playing well below that level of intensity in the second-half, Cliftonville continued to be the only side interested in making the breakthrough - McDaid twice going close before Carrick skipper Mark Surgenor cleared off the line after substitute Jay Donnelly had pounced on a rare error by the visiting keeper.
Neeson then turned a deflected McDaid free-kick past his post and, from a brace of successive corners in the final few minutes, Stephen Garrett's close-range blast was somehow kept out.
Cliftonville: Burke, McGovern, Ives, McGuinness, Curran (Lavery 76 mins), Knowles (M Donnelly 84 mins), McDaid, Garrett, Catney, Winchester (J Donnelly 60 mins), Cosgrove. Unused subs: J Mooney, A Donnelly.
Carrick: Neeson, Surgenor, Foster, McCullough, Morrow (Taggart 80 mins), Hanley, Rice (Chapman 68 mins), Lavery, Kelly (Wade 71 mins), Salley, Wilson. Unused subs: Malcolmson, Greene.
Man of match: Brian Neeson
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).