CLIFTONVILLE 1 CARRICK RANGERS 0
Davy McDaid was the hero as Cliftonville eventually found a way past a resolute Carrick Rangers side at Solitude.
Visiting keeper Brian Neeson produced an outstanding display to thwart the home side time after time but could do nothing to prevent McDaid’s 79th minute strike.
The Reds, still reeling from last week’s shocking capitulation against Crusaders, made just one change to their line-up with goalkeeper Jason Mooney – culpable by many for some of the goals shipped in that crumble from 3-0 up – making way for deputy Peter Burke, whose only previous outings this term came in Cup clashes against Intermediate opposition.
Carrick caretaker boss Glenn Taggart, meanwhile, relegated himself to the bench in one of two amendments from the side that lost to Ards last time out; Seanna Foster missing out as TJ Murray and Jonny Wilson were given the nod for starting berths.
It was, however, the familiar figure of keeper Neeson who played a starring role from the first whistle, denying Jude Winchester and Ruairi Harkin before Jay Donnelly dragged an attempt wide of the mark.
Adam Salley was unfortunate not to put Carrick ahead when his dipping strike rocked the crossbar on 23 minutes before, back at the other end, Martin Donnelly was denied by Neeson, who would soon make three point-blank saves in succession; first blocking a Winchester shot and then follow ups from Levi Ives and Winchester again.
Harkin’s 43rd minute free-kick was straight down the keeper’s throat and, after the break, Winchester and Harkin were again off target before Jason McGuinness’ header was stopped by Neeson.
Former Cliftonville forward Martin Murray was desperately unlucky not to score against his ex-employers when his sensational curling drive from distance sailed beyond keeper Burke and smashed against the inside of the post.
The deadlock was finally broken 11 minutes from time when Stephen Garrett’s determined run down the left ended with a low cross which, though too pacey for Ives to connect with, fell perfectly for McDaid to finish off at the back post.
Rangers almost stole a leveller in the depths of injury-time when an opportunistic Gareth McKeown half-volley looked destined to creep in and required Burke’s fingertips to preserve the points for the hosts.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, McGovern, Ives, McGuinness, Knowles, M Donnelly, Hughes, Harkin, Winchester, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: Bonner, McDaid (Hughes, 61 mins), Garrett (Winchester, 77 mins), A Mooney, G Donnelly (M Donnelly, 90 mins).
CARRICK: Neeson, McKeown, Surgenor, McNally, McCullough, Morrow, Salley, TJ Murray, Wilson, Hanley, M Murray. Subs: Taggart, Waide (Hanley, 82 mins), Chapman, Rice (Wilson, 64 mins), Lavery (Morrow, 79 mins).
REFEREE: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).