Cliftonville extended their advantage at the top of the Premiership thanks to a second successive victory over Institute last night.
After a 3-0 defeat at Solitude on Saturday, Institute boss John Gregg called upon his men to react in a positive fashion and they almost took the lead after just three minutes when Ruairi Boyle’s snapshot whistled over the bar, while Shaun Holmes dragged a free-kick wide of the mark.
Joe McCreadie went close just before the interval when he was inches away from connecting with Thomas Wray’s cushioned header back across the face of goal following a neat floated ball from new signing David McClements.
The Reds were sloppy in the opening half and, aside from forcing Gavin Cullen into a save through Chris Scannell on nine minutes, failed to really test the visitors, but the floodgates opened 10 minutes into the second-half when skipper Scannell found just enough space behind David Ogilby to clip home with a rare left-footed conversion.
It was 2-0 just minutes later, Stute keeper Gavin Cullen understandably apoplectic with team-mate Eamon Seydak when the defender nodded into his own net after Cullen had produced a stupendous save to keep Kieran O’Connor’s diving headed attempt out from point-blank range.
Cullen was left helpess again on 83 minutes when he did well to stop Liam Fleming’s header from finding the net and, though Liam Boyce’s follow-up was blocked on the line, Ciaran Donaghy rifled through a crowded goalmouth for number three.
Institute became the first team to score past Cliftonville in 2010 when Boyle’s well-placed free-kick found the bottom corner with five minutes left to play but, within 60 seconds, O’Connor had got on the end of Ronan Scannell’s deliver to head past Cullen as the Reds — who boast games in hand over many of their nearest challengers — pulled three points clear at the top of the table.
CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly, R Scannell, B Holland, Donaghy, McMullan, C Scannell, Boyce, O'Connor, Catney, Jones, Hutton. Subs: Fleming (for Catney, 82 mins), O'Hara, M Holland (for Jones, 78 mins), Dunlop, Burns
INSTITUTE: Cullen, Wray, Seydak, McLaughlin, McClean, Ogilby, McClements, Boyle, McCreadie, Divin, Holmes. Subs: Smith, Ryan, Lowry, Blackburn, Mullan (for McClements, 82 mins)
REFEREE: Ross Dunlop (Fermanagh)