Wounded Cliftonville cruise past hapless Lisburn Distillery for morale-boosting Co Antrim Shield win
Co Antrim Shield first round: Cliftonville 5 Lisburn Distillery 0
THERE'S never a good time to face a wounded animal – as minnows Lisburn Distillery found to their cost at Solitude last night.
Barry Gray may be under a bit of pressure to get more league points on the board – but last night's Co Antrim Shield victory was the proverbial breeze for the Premier League club.
The Reds bounced back from last weekend's devastating loss to Warrenpoint Town to fire five goals past Colin McIlwaine's Distillery side.
Had Cliftonville brought their shooting boots they could easily have doubled their final tally.
The gulf in class between the sides was apparent from start to finish as Ryan Catney, Jay Donnelly, Joe Gormley (2) and Ryan Curran found the target to score a morale-boosting win ahead of Saturday's home league game against Ballymena United.
The Reds could easily have been six goals up at the break but a combination of poor finishing and brilliant goalkeeping from the under siege Jonah Nicholl kept the score at 2-0.
The home side missed three great chances between the 12th and 18th minutes – Joe Gormley spurning two of them and Jay Donnelly was denied by Nicholl – before the Reds inevitably rippled Distillery's net in the 20th minute.
It took miracle man Ryan Catney to show the Cliftonville forwards how to finish. Chris Curran, whose deliveries were of their usual high order, pulled one cross back for Catney who hammered the ball off the underside of Distillery's bar and into the net.
Four minutes later, Jay Donnelly made up for his earlier miss when he dribbled across the penalty area before unleashing a low curling drive that nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
Playing in front of a paltry home crowd, it continued to rain chances but the Reds couldn't add to their tally before the break.
Gormley's well-placed header from Levi Ives' excellent cross was parried away by Nicholl who seemed to be the only visiting player enjoying the experience of facing Premier League opposition.
Gormley turned provider in the 41st and 43rd minutes but Ryan Curran and Conor McDonald didn't take their gift-wrapped chances.
The Whites, playing in a fetching green kit, played with plenty of tenacity and skill but Cliftonville's greater fitness and guile overpowered them at times.
The game was held up for a few minutes after centre back Damien McNulty, making his debut for the Reds, collided with Jamie Harney and was brought to hospital to be treated for concussion.
Harney recovered sufficiently from the innocuous clash and almost bagged a goal ten minutes after the restart with a dipping volley that hit the crossbar.
Credit to Distillery, who ply their trade two rungs below senior football these days, stitched together some fine passages of play in the second half while James Wright came closest to scoring for the visitors.
In the 62nd minute, Gormley finally broke his duck to make it three for the north Belfast men. Substitute Ross Lavery did brilliantly down the left flank and Gormley had time to pick his spot from eight yards.
And the Ardoyne striker was on target five minutes later. With time and space, he curled the ball beyond Nicholl to make it 4-0.
And in the closing stages, Ryan Curran tapped home to make it five. The temperature will be turned up for the Reds this Saturday as they attempt to climb the table and put behind them a poor start to their campaign.
Cliftonville: B Neeson, J McGovern, L Ives, J Harney, D McNulty (R Lavery 46), R Catney, C McDonald, C Curran (C McConnell 68), J Donnelly (C McMenamin 64), J Gormley, R Curran Subs not used: S Garrett, D White, T Maguire, A Donnelly
Lisburn Distillery: J Nicholl, C Corry, C Curran, B Moore, J Reid, J Wright, A McMurtry, L Harrison (A Harris 64), N Beta (M Ferguson 63), J McCaw, P Young (F Dugan 69) Subs not used: C Kennedy (gk), A Harris, M O'Hanlon