Belfast Telegraph

Reds need that little bit extra in pursuit of four in a row glory

Warrenpoint Town 0-1 Cliftonville

By Gareth McCullough

Cliftonville stayed on course for their fourth League Cup in a row after they eventually saw off the challenge of plucky Warrenpoint Town following extra-time at Milltown.

Jay Donnelly was the hero for the Reds with his goal early in the first period against a home side who had Mark Clarke and Liam Bagnall sent off and manager Barry Gray sent to the stands.

The first half an hour of this match was played in torrential rain and a fierce wind that favoured Warrenpoint in the early stages.

However, it was difficult for either side to create clear cut chances with scrappy football the order of the day at Milltown as the home side hustled and harried Gerard Lyttle's men at every available opportunity.

It was Gray's side who had the opening opportunity of the half when Mark Hughes curled a corner in from the right, midfielder Conor McDonald meeting the ball at the front post but he could only direct his header wide of the upright.

As the conditions got progressively worse and the football got even scrappier, referee Arnold Hunter dished out three yellow cards after a number of hefty challenges with Warrenpoint's John Boyle and Clarke going into the book and Ryan Catney cautioned for the Reds.

Cliftonville had a great chance to take the lead midway through the first period when Martin Donnelly whipped in a corner from the right hand side to the unmarked Tomas Cosgrove but the defender didn't get enough purchase on his header and it flashed wide.

The home side's best chance of the first 45 minutes arrived shortly after the half hour. Awarded a free-kick on the left, Bagnall whipped it into the box and as Daniel Hiughes got a glancing header on it, Conor Devlin was equal to the striker's effort as he pushed it over the bar for a corner.

They went close again seven minutes before the break when McDonald crossed from the right to the hard-working Stephen Murray but he headed wide.

It was left until 41 minutes for the most clear-cut chance of the opening period and it fell to the Belfast side who really should have taken a 1-0 lead.

Cosgrove did superbly down the right hand side, getting past Mark Hughes to the byline before picking out Stephen Garrett with a precision low cross. However Garrett missed his kick from six yards and David McDaid couldn't react quickly enough to poke it home.

The opening chance of the second period fell to the home side when Sean Donnelly jinked his way to the edge of the Cliftonville area and when he unleashed a stinging shot from 18 yards, Jaimie McGovern produced a superb diving block to steer the goalbound shot off target.

Cliftonville were next to go close when James Knowles' speculative cross from the right clipped the top of the crossbar before being hacked clear.

Stephen Murray found himself in on goal but the striker's shot was weak and straight at Devlin.

The 'Point suffered a blow on 78 minutes when they were reduced to 10 men with Clarke shown a second yellow for a foul on Knowles.

It took just a minute and 40 seconds of the first period of extra-time for Cliftonville to get their goal when Garrett crossed and sub Jay Donnelly volleyed home superbly from eight yards.

WARRENPOINT TOWN: Parr, McDonald, M Hughes (Kierans 105), Clarke, S Donnelly (McGuigan 77), McVeigh, S Murray, D Hughes, Dane, Bagnall, Boyle

Red cards: Clarke, Bagnall

Subs not used: Rooney, Smith, Shanahan

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Knowles, Curran (M Murray 69), McDaid, Garrett, M Donnelly (J Donnelly 59), Catney, Cosgrove

Goal: Jay Donnelly (92)

Subs not used: McMullan, Brennan, McMurray

Match rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Knowles

Ref: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

Belfast Telegraph


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