Battling Institute lose at Cliftonville

Cliftonville's Aaron Donnelly shields the ball from Institute's debut boy Aaron McGurk.
Cliftonville's Aaron Donnelly shields the ball from Institute's debut boy Aaron McGurk.

Cliftonville 1 Institute 0

Cliftonville in the end deservedly seen off a battling Institute side, thanks to Ruaidhri Donnelly's first half goal.

The striker's header just before the interval was enough to settle the encounter, at a sun soaked Solitude, but for the visitors they can take heart from this performance.

While the home side probably should have won by a bigger margin, new 'Stute boss Sean Connor will be thrilled by his side's attitude and in the end they may have nicked a point.

The visitors made three changes to their side which loss to Larne last week, as Connor selected first team since taking over.

Into the starting line-up came Aidan McCauley, Joe McCready and youngster Aaron McGurk, was given his first start, as Gareth Brown and Jamie McIntyre dropped to the bench and defender Ryan Morrow missed out completely.

The home side were forced into an early change as Aaron Donnelly had to come on for the injury Levi Ives.

After playing second fiddle for long periods in the opening quarter, Institute should have taken the lead on 24 minutes as McCauley got in behind the Reds defence, but the ex-Limavady United man saw his close range shot saved by an out-rushing Richard Brush.

Former 'Stute favourite Ronan Doherty had the home side's first real effort moments later, but his low 25 yard strike was easily saved by keeper Paul Wells.

Just after the half-hour mark the visitors had another good chance to break the deadlock, as Joe McCready's cut-back found Cormac Burke, but the winger's side footed effort from the edge of the box, failed to trouble Brush and sailed over.

The deadlock was broken on 41 minutes as Ryan Curran saw his left wing cross find and unmarked Donnelly, who gleefully headed home from six yards, giving Wells no chance.

Cliftonville should have doubled their lead right on the stroke of half-time, as Conor McDermott's long ball out of defence picked out Joe Gormley, but after breaking the offside trap, the usually reliable front man saw his tame effort from just inside the box, easily saved by Wells.

Paddy McLaughlin's side should have added a second on 54 minutes from the penalty spot, after Jamie Dunne brought down Donnelly inside the box, but Ryan Curran's resulting effort from 12 yards, although well hit, was kept out by Wells, diving to his right.

Brush had to make a top draw save before the hour mark, as Institute were inches away from levelling things, but the ex-Sligo Rovers net-minder diving full stretch, kept out Dean Curry's strike.

With their tails up the visitors continued to press forward in search of leveller and on 69 minutes McCauley's well hit long range shot was saved by Brush.

Nine minutes from time the combination of Wells and the crossbar denied McMenamin.

The Cliftonville man got in behind the 'Stute defence, but his close range strike from a tight angle was kept out by Wells and the loose ball hit the front-man and came back off the crossbar, before Curry booted away the loose ball.

A minute from time 'Stute substitute Gareth Brown had a good chance, but the striker's left footed volley from the edge of the box, flew just over the bar.

Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Harney, Ives (Donnelly 9); Doherty, McMenamin, C Curran; R Curran (Bagnall 63), R Donnelly (Gorman 90), Gormley.

Institute: Wells, Crown, D Curry, Tourish, Dunne (McLaughlin 72); McNamee (Brown 63), McCauley, Grace, Burke, McGurk (McIntyre 63); McCready.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).