Linfield roar back into title race with win over Cliftonville

Chris McKee celebrates scoring for Linfield’s third goal in their 3-0 win over Cliftonville (Andrew McCarroll/Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press)
Sports Direct Premiership: Cliftonville 0 Linfield 3

Linfield roared back into the Sports Direct Premiership title race after sweeping a disappointing Cliftonville team aside at Solitude last night.

Kyle McClean and substitutes Daniel Finlayson and Chris McKee capitalised on an anaemic Reds performance by scoring the goals that did the damage in the second half.

This huge win sees Linfield move into second place in the league, a point behind Larne having played a game more.

After seeing their magnificent 16-game unbeaten run come crashing to an end, the Reds remain three points behind the reigning Champions from Inver Park.

Both sides made a positive start to this crucial encounter and perhaps the frenetic start led to nerves in the Cliftonville goal as David Odumosu slipped when in control of a backpass from Johnny Addis after seven minutes, allowing Rhys Annett to pounce but the 19-year-old found the side netting with a shot on the turn.

Twelve minutes later the Reds stopper dropped a cross from the left for Sam Ashford to hook clear as Linfield took a greater hand in proceedings.

Ashord saw a directed header from an Addis ball pulled out of the air easily by Chris Johns on his return to the Linfield first team before the action returned to the Cliftonville half.

Matthew Clarke saw a goalbound shot intercepted on 25 minutes then three minutes later Ethan McGee picked Matthew Fitzpatrick out in front of goal with a but Fitzpatrick snatched at the ball and the chance was lost.

Cliftonville weathered a mini storm boosted by the return from suspension of young centre-half Odhran Casey, but the 21-year-old would be caught out for the opening goal nine minutes into the second period.

Chris Shields hoisted a ball forward to Fitzpatrick who then popped it into the right channel of the box. Casey tried to shepherd the ball over the byline but Annett got in behind to hook back to McClean, who was able to elude Ronan Doherty and poke home from close in.

Cliftonville were left reeling for the hosts had made a bright start to the second half, and after McKee replaced Annett on the hour, were rocked again when Linfield scored again on 64 minutes to silence the home support.

Finlayson replaced the injured Chris Shields on 62 minutes and when Clarke swung a deep corner from the left two minutes later, the 23-year-old rose highest at the back to nod home from six yards.

McKee, who replaced Annett, made sure of the win on 76 minutes from a McClean corner when he stabbed home after Finlayson again nodded down at the back post.

Cliftonville; Odumosu, Addis, Rory Hale(c), Gordon (Curran 67), Doherty (Gormley 71), Mallon, Burns, Casey, Kearney, Ronan Hale, Ashford. Subs not used; Pepper, Stewart, Kenny, Lowe, Donnelly.

Linfield; Johns, Clarke, Hall, East, Mulgrew(c), Shields(Finlayson 62), McClean, McGee, Archer, Fitzpatrick, Annett (McKee 60). Subs not used; Millar, Cooper, McBrien, McCullough, Walsh.

Referee; Mr Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)