Liam Boyce 48' -
Cliftonville will take a lead to Richmond Park in the Setanta Cup First Round for a second successive season as Liam Boyce’s second half strike was enough to see off a brave effort from St Patrick's Athletic.
Although the Dublin side dominated the ball, Cliftonville never looked under immense pressure. A goal less first half saw both sides threaten the opposition goal a number of times. The Saints began well with James Chambers and Jake Carroll central to most of their work.
Carroll worked an early chance for Chris Forrester, who shot just wide past the Reds goalkeeper Ryan Brown. Cliftonville midfielder Stephen Garrett created a chance for striker Liam Boyce who, in his first game back in Solitude, hit the crossbar with Brendan Clarke scrambling.
Boyce was partnered up top by Joe Gormley and the pair were a threat throughout the first half. Gormley spun away from Kenna on 20 minutes but he made it easy for Clarke, shooting straight down the middle.
George McMullan and Boyce were the two stand-out players for the Belfast side, with Boyce finding McMullan who’s shot was straight at Saints keeper Clarke. The pick of James Chambers first half free kicks picked out Christy Fagan at the far post, who, unmarked, swiped at the ball and it bounced up nicely for keeper Ryan Brown. Just after Fagan’s chance Rossiter pressed forward and struck the ball low down to Brown’s left but the keeper again saved.
Liam Boyce opened the scoring for Cliftonville three minutes after the break when Martin Donnelly fed the ball past the wall to Boyce who smashed past Clarke from six yards out.
After the opener, the IFA premiership side were pinned back as the Saints went in search of a reply.
Rossiter broke down the left and got inside the box before pulling the back to Fagan who managed the screw the ball wide from six yards out, with the goal at his mercy. McMullan was outstanding in midfield for Cliftonville and if he wasn’t mounting an attack for the Reds, he was throwing his body in the way of Saints efforts. He spear headed Cliftonville’s rare attack on the hour, which saw Boyce cross into Clarke’s hands.
Darren Meenan then broke down the right for the Inchicore outfit and the former Northern Ireland U-21 international squared the ball to Chris Forrester who in-turn teed up Jake Carroll, his effort being saved by Reds keeper Brown.
Chambers then had a cross cleared before Mark Rossiter struck from 20 yards, but again it was easy for Brown. Forrester and Fagan also had half chances, but a lot of their play petered out into nothing.
Chambers then found himself in acres of space outside the box but, despite the pleas of the Saints faithful to shoot, he squared it to Forrester who couldn’t latch onto the ball.
However, Pat’s had one more guilt edge chance. Chambers’ free kick was parried by keeper Brown before he deflected Forrester’s rebound onto the post, and the offside flag prevented the Saints attack from converting the next rebound.
From that moment on, St Pats began to look tired, and Cliftonville’s mid- season fitness began to show. Saints were caught out by Cliftonville sub and talisman Chris Scannell, with Brendan Clarke saving well.
The busy McMullan fed Donnelly on 85 minutes and he won a corner after yet another great save by Clarke. From the resulting centre the Saints stopper again produced the goods with a super save from Scannell’s strong header.
The Saints would get one more chance to level the game, but substitute Stephen O’Flynn’s header was blocked before the ball was cleared by a resilient Cliftonville defence.
Cliftonville: Ryan Brown; Eamon Seydak, David McAlinden (Kieran Caldwell, 4), Aaron Smyth, Dermot McVeigh; Stephen Garrett (Diarmuid O’Carroll, 75), George McMullan, Martin Donnelly, Emmett Templeton; Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley (Chris Scannell, 75).
Subs Not Used: John Connolly, Anthony McGonnigal, Tomas Cosgrave, Neil Slane.
St Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Darren Meenan (Stephen O Flynn, 67) , James Chambers, Mark Rossiter, Chris Forrester, Jake Carroll (Sean O’Connor, 77); Chris Fagan.
Subs Not Used: Barry Murphy, Aidan Price, Pat Flynn, Jake Kelly, Ian Daly.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington.
Attendance: 600 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: George McMullan (Cliftonville).