Cliftonville 1-0 Ballymena United
By Paul Alexander
Cliftonville secured a 1-0 win against Ballymena United at Solitude on Saturday afternoon with Ruaidhri Donnelly netting the decisive goal.
The narrow victory gives the Reds a two-point lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and leaves the Braidmen seven points behind sixth-placed Larne.
There was a lack of obvious opportunities in the opening 45 minutes and, although the home side had the best of what was created, the game remained goalless at half-time.
Ryan Curran had a chance for Cliftonville eight minutes after the kick-off with a shot from the right side of the penalty area which was palmed over by visiting goalkeeper Ross Glendinning.
Teammate Ruaidhri Donnelly had another significant opportunity four minutes before the break when he moved inside from the left but his strike across goal was wide of the right post.
Although Donnelly did put his side in front during the 51st minute. The winger took a touch as he received the ball on the left side of the 18-yard box before finishing across goal into bottom right corner.
In the last few seconds of the 56th minute Ballymena’s Jonny Addis tried a shot from outside the Reds’ area which went wide. The centre-back was also involved three minutes later when he drove forward and played the ball to Kenny Kane on the left wing. Kane then gave it to Ryan Mayse whose shot across goal was blocked by Cliftonville keeper Richard Brush.
On 62 minutes a forward ball towards Ryan Curran was chased by the left winger and centre-back Andrew Burns. The United defender did just enough as the ball went out for a corner despite Curran’s efforts.
The hosts had another chance with almost 76 minutes played. From a central position, Ruaidhri Donnelly kept his eye on a high ball but his low poke was guided around the right post by Ross Glendinning.
United’s Addis nearly levelled the scoreline two minutes later when his rising effort from distance went just wide of the right post. Substitute Ross Lavery also searched for an equaliser although his low, soft shot was easily gathered by Brush.
Cliftonville: Brush, A. Donnelly, Breen, Harney, McDermott, Doherty, Bagnall, C. Curran, R. Curran, Gormley (McMenamin, 72), R. Donnelly
Subs not used: McKee, Foster, Wilson, Dunne, Maguire, Gorman
Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Ervin, Andrew Burns, McCullough, McGinty, Carville, Winchester, McGrory, Mayse (Lavery, 70), K. Kane (Brown, 70)
Subs not used: Williamson, Reece Glendinning, Warnock, Beattie, Annett
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Ruaidhri Donnelly (Cliftonville)