Cliftonville get the job done against Portadown

PATIENCE was certainly a virtue for Cliftonville at Solitude on Monday night, with relentless pressure eventually paying off to send Portadown tumbling from the Irn Bru League Cup.

After falling behind with barely 60 seconds of action played, the Reds huffed and puffed through a frustrating next hour-and-a-quarter before finally blowing the visiting house down with a triple blast from Joe Gormley, Liam Boyce and Diarmuid O’Carroll.

Still troubled by injury, Kevin Braniff was not risked at a venue where he has traditionally shone over the years but in Darren Murray, the Ports possess one of the Irish League’s most in-form strikers, with the other - Liam Boyce - lining up for Cliftonville in a contest which certainly promised to whet the appetite of a hearty crowd at Solitude.

And it was the Portadown frontman who signalled his intent first with a bullet header forcing Conor Devlin into an acrobatic save with just 24 seconds on the clock.

From Ross Redman’s subsequent corner delivery, Ramsey marked his return by rising highest to make the telling touch in a goalmouth scramble to poke the ball over the line.

Cliftonville Boyce then whistled an effort just past the post before coming within inches of connecting with Ronan Scannell’s teasing left-wing cross.

Caldwell then saw a fine chance to awry when he shot off target from a promising position and, while Garrett’s effort against the woodwork was another example of home pressure, it was Portadown who almost scored next with Lecky’s touch squeezing the ball past Devlin before Caldwell nipped in to clear.

Good reactions from Ports keeper David Miskelly prevented substitute Gormley from gobbling up a half-chance on 68 minutes but it was only delaying the inevitable with the striker finally drawing Cliftonville level when he poked Knowles’ inch-perfect pass into the bottom corner on 72 minutes.

Soon later, the tie was turned on its head as Boyce ran clear before thundering home and, after both Boyce and Martin Donnelly had gone close to adding the security strike, it was O’Carroll who would have the final say in proceedings when he found the net from close range after fine build-up play from Ronan Scannell and Gormley.