Belfast Telegraph

Neeson saves day as Reds flatter to deceive

Carrick Rangers 0-1 Cliftonville

By Ian Callender

Cliftonville's remarkable run in the League Cup goes on, but they had to be satisfied with a single goal to see off the challenge of Carrick Rangers.

Rory Donnelly's 31st-minute strike separated the teams after an unconvincing performance by the Reds, who have not lost in the competition in 90 minutes for seven years.

It needed a superb finger-tip save by Brian Neeson from Mark Surgenor in the 80th minute to preserve the clean sheet and send Cliftonville into Saturday's semi-final draw.

But it was a rare highlight in a very tame affair.

The tone was set in a lethargic start by the Reds - who were playing in green - possibly bordering on complacency after their 3-0 win in the league just 11 days earlier.

They burst into life in the 24th minute when Joe Gormley drove his shot straight at Harry Doherty, who could only push it onto the upright, but, fortunately for the keeper, it came back into his grateful arms.

Seven minutes later, however, another cross from the right produced the goal.

Jude Winchester sent Chris Curran free on the wing with a superb ball, and his cross was met at the near post by Rory Donnelly, who fired into the corner of the net.

In between, Carrick had the chance to take the lead when Lee Chapman sped past Levi Ives and from his cross Surgenor poked the ball just wide, possibly distracted by his striker, Martin Mooney, going for the same incoming ball.

It was Jay Donnelly's turn to show his displeasure at a team-mate in the 34th minute when he expected a return pass from Ross Lavery, but the winger instead chose to go himself and shoot - and he was well wide of the goal.

The entertainment value after the break did not exactly improve but Carrick matched the four-time winners of the competition (2013-16) in chances with the Reds' Jay Donnelly screwing the ball wide from 10 yards out and 16-year-old Liam Hassin blasting over from the edge of the box for the home side.

It wasn't pretty, but Cliftonville won't mind - they're in the semis.

Carrick Rangers: Doherty; Larmour (Roy 87 mins), McMullan, Gage, Edgar; Chapman, Surgenor, Clarke (Morrow 64 mins), McAllister, Mooney (Maybin 69 mins, Hassin. Unused subs: Rice, Green

Cliftonville: Neeson; McGovern, Harney, Breen, Ives; J Donnelly, Curran, Winchester, Lavery (Garrett 64 mins); Gormley (Hughes 78 mins), R Donnelly. Unused subs: Dunne, M Donnelly, A Donnelly

Man of the Match: Gary Breen

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Raymond Crangle

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