George McMullan’s second-half thunderbolt proved to be the difference as Cliftonville got the better of Carrick Rangers at Solitude.
Carrick defended in numbers for the entire match, frustrating Tommy Breslin’s men who created chance after chance. That was until man of the match McMullan blasted home on 73 minutes.
The result preserves the north Belfast outfit’s 100 per cent record in the Danske Bank Premiership. Carrick have four points from a possible 12 and will be aiming to bounce back in this Friday night’s clash at Ballymena United.
After a low-key start to the game, James Knowles went close from a free-kick in a central position but his effort zipped over the bar before McMullan’s 20-yard strike flew wide of the right-hand post.
Carrick were living dangerously when Jay Donnelly charged down Mark Surgenor’s clearance, only to be thwarted by keeper Brian Neeson whose first reaction was to put in a solid defensive tackle, dispossessing the promising young centre-forward.
Donnelly went close to breaking Carrick’s resistance again 10 minutes before the interval when he got on the end of Chris Curran’s right-wing cross but his volley was blocked.
Carrick’s first real chance arrived when McCloskey broke down the right and into the box. His shot was blocked by Johnny Flynn and Gary Browne failed to hit the target with a follow-up volley.
The visitors were camped in their own half for the bulk of the second session and they had skipper Aaron Harmon to thank when he cleared Caoimhin Bonner’s flick from a Jay Donnelly header off the line.
Midway through the second session Neeson got down low to smother McMullan’s fierce left-foot drive from the edge of the area.
But three minutes later the Carrick number one was powerless to prevent the Reds skipper slamming the ball low into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from the same area of the pitch, having been set up by Knowles.
David McDaid’s saw a close-range strike blocked by the impressive Daniel Kelly and referee Raymond Hetherington was unmoved by cries for a hand ball.
Martin Murray could have doubled the lead but his solo run into the box ended with tame shot straight at Neeson.
Carrick had an appeal for a penalty when sub Miguel Chines appeared to have been felled in the box before McDaid blazed wide at the other end.
In the dying embers fo the match, Gary Haveron was sent to the stands before Cherry tested the woodwork from a Chines free-kick.
Cliftonville: Burke, Bonner, Flynn, Knowles, Curran (Murray 67), McMullan (Catney 77), McDaid, M Donnelly, Seydak, J Donnelly (Winchester 76), Cosgrove. Subs not used: McGovern, Smyth.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Smyth (McKenna 77), Kelly, McNeill, Traynor, Harmon, Surgenor, Cherry, McCloskey (Kane 59), Roy (Chines 83), Browne. Subs not used: Johnston, Miskimmin.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).