Ryan Curran celebrates scoring for Cliftonville (©INPHO/Matt Mackey)
Saturday, 20 April 2019
Two early Ryan Curran goals saw Cliftonville defeat Crusaders in the final North Belfast derby of the season at Solitude.
Curran opened the scoring on nine minutes from the spot, awarded after Kyle Owens had brought down Joe Gormley inside the box. Crues keeper Harry Doherty correctly dived to his left but was powerless to stop Curran's well struck effort.
Crusaders responded positively to going behind with Paul Heatlet flashing a shot narrowly over followed by Jordan Owens' header from Ross Clarke's free-kick just dropping wide.
But the Reds doubled their advantage with barely over a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock with Curran's tremendous right foot finish into the far corner after Joe Gorman had looped the ball into his path.
The visitors came closest to pulling a goal back not long from the break when Jordan Owens glanced Clarke's cross a little too high but Cliftonville could have extended their lead moments after that only for Gormley to fail to beat Doherty one-on-one before Kyle Owens cleared the follow up off the line.
Crusaders swapped keepers at half-time and substitute stopper Harry Doherty was called into action around the hour mark to stick a leg out to deny Gormley after he had got through the defence.
To their credit, Stephen Baxter's side kept pushing to recover something from the game but an indication it wasn't to be their afternoon came in the final quarter-of-an-hour when Jordan Forsythe saw a curling effort pushed onto the crossbar by Richard Brush with the home keeper then tipped Owens' rebound against an upright.
Cliftonville: Brush, Ives, Breen, Harney, C. Curran, R. Curran, R. Donnelly, Bagnall, Catney, Gormley, Gorman subs Neeson (not used), Grace (replaced Catney 78), A. Harkin (not used), McConnell (replaced Gormley 89), Maguire (replaced R. Donnelly 68), McMenamin (not used), A. Donnelly (not used)
Crusaders: G. Doherty, Beverland, Caddell, Forsythe, Ruddy, K. Owens, J. Owens, Thompson, Heatley, Clarke, Patterson subs H. Doherty (replaced G. Doherty 46), McChrystal (not used), Coates (not used), Lowry (not used), Ward (not used), Rn. Hale (replaced J. Owens 48), Rr. Hale (not used)
Referee: Lee Tavinder