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Cliftonville 5 Ballinamallard 0

Joe Gormley blasted a hat-trick to help Cliftonville ease past the challenge of 10-man Ballinamallard United at Solitude.

After setting the hosts on their way with a first-half penalty, the young striker saw team mates Stephen Garrett and Liam Boyce get their own names on the scoresheet before claiming another double for himself as the high-flying Mallards came crashing back down to earth.

Both sides entered the contest on the back of morale-boosting sequences that stemmed right back to their last meeting exactly one month previously.

On that occasion Whitey Anderson's side claimed a last-gasp victory which provided the platform for a run that has earned the scalps of Portadown, Donegal Celtic, Glenavon and Linfield.

Cliftonville, meanwhile, reacted to that setback by racing to the top of the table with four successive league victories of their own and Tommy Breslin's reluctance to shuffle his pack was testament to the respect the Mallards have earned.

Indeed, he made just three changes from the side which overcame Lisburn Distillery at the weekend. Ballinamallard shied away from making too many amendments of their own, though Anderson was able to hand Leon Carters a spot on the bench following the defender’s suspension-enforced absence against Linfield on Saturday — and he was handed an early introduction with Mark Stafford’s red card after just 21 minutes.

Stafford’s dismissal came when he used a hand to keep Boyce’s goalbound header out. Gormley fired home from the spot. Martin Donnelly forced Rouse into another stop before producing the delivery which allowed Garrett to make it 2-0 on 28 minutes.

Boyce got his angles spot on early in the second period when he blasted home a gem from the edge of the area before Gormley got number four on 58 minutes.

James Knowles provided the cross from which Gormley headed past Rouse to complete the triumph and earn the matchball.

Belfast Telegraph