Cliftonville ease past Barry Town to progress in Europa League
Uefa Europa League preliminary round second leg: Cliftonville 4 Barry Town 0 (Cliftonville win 4-0 on aggregate)
CLIFTONVILLE won’t have many easier nights in Europe as last night after easily outclassing Europa League preliminary opponents Barry Town and will now face Norwegian side FK Haugesund at Solitude next Thursday night.
Goals from Conor McMenamin, Joe Gormley, Conor McDermott and Rory Donnelly – two in each half – made it a comfortable night’s work for Paddy McLaughlin’s side.
The Reds took a firm grip of last night’s second round clash against their Welsh visitors by forging a two-goal half-time lead, which went some way to healing the wounds of those missed chances in Cardiff a week earlier.
The north Belfast club’s record goal-scorer Joe Gormley went closest in the early stages with an audacious dipping volley from the right flank that had to be tipped over the visitors crossbar by the alert Mike Lewis.
Barry Town, a semi-professional outfit that ply their trade in the Welsh Premier League, lacked a cutting edge and were fairly loose in defence too after Conor McMenamin opened the scoring for Cliftonville in the 25th minute.
McMenamin, who enjoyed an outstanding finish to last season, nodded home Ronan Doherty’s back post corner to send the sizeable Reds faithful into early-season raptures.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Barry Town who lacked any semblance of self-belief after falling behind.
And just before the interval, Gormley virtually wrapped up the tie by firing home from the edge of the area after accepting captain Chris Curran’s pass.
Rory Donnelly, lively from start to finish for Paddy McLaughlin’s men, saw his angled drive tipped around the post after 53 minutes.
As the second half wore on this Europa League clash assumed all the hallmarks of a pre-season friendly game with Richard Brush a virtual spectator in the second half but he was at least entertained by the merry, drum-beating band of Barry Town supporters behind his goal.
Gormley didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – he wore a broad smile instead – after missing from two yards out although it wasn’t clear if the linesman saved his blushes with an off-side flag or signalling for a goal kick.
Regardless of the validity of Gormley’s perceived ‘sitter’, it was never likely to prove costly.
In the 73rd minute Ronan Doherty, a new signing from McLaughlin’s old club Institute, fired narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area after Gormley’s lay-off.
But more goals did come for the Reds and the third, on 82 minutes, was celebrated to its fullest by new boy Conor McDermott, on-loan from Derry City.
Arguably the most impressive player on the pitch, the classy right back raced in from his flank to drill the ball low past the unprotected Lewis.
And two minutes later Barry Town’s misery was complete when the unmarked Rory Donnelly slammed the ball home from 10 yards after Gormley’s neat pull-back.
It was all too easy for Cliftonville but they will certainly face a step-up in opposition against FK Haugesund in next week's first leg tie.
Cliftonville: R Brush, C McDermott, L Ives, G Breen, J Gorman, L Bagnall, C McMenamin (R Wilson 85), C Curran, R Doherty, J Gormley (J Harney 86), R Donnelly (T Maguire 86) Subs not used: D Dunne, A Harkin, S Foster, R Curran
Barry Town: M Lewis, P Morgan, C Hugh, L Cooper, R Patten (T Fry 74), K McLaggon, T Hisock-Greening, J Cotterill (J Compton 64), J Hood (S Snaith 80), C Green, E Press Subs not used: C Watkins, R Abbruzzese, G Ratcliffe, L Cosslett
Referee: F Zammit (Malta)