CLIFTONVILLE 3 PORTADOWN 0
Cliftonville tore Portadown apart with a scintillating show to maintain their fine form.
Stephen Garrett had a say in all three home goals; scoring the first and last after teeing Jay Donnelly up for the second with little more than quarter of an hour to play.
Both sides made changes to their line-ups after experiencing differing fortunes in midweek JBE League Cup commitments.
The Reds – of whom Gerard Lyttle was in charge for the first time since his appointment was ratified on Thursday morning – welcomed Marc Smyth, Ryan Catney and Martin Donnelly back to their starting XI in place of Jaimie McGovern, George McMullan and Martin Murray, while goalkeeper Peter Burke once again deputised in Conor Devlin’s injury-enforced absence.
While Cliftonville got the better of Dungannon Swifts on League Cup duty, the Ports crashed out at the hands of lowly Warrenpoint Town but, even so, Ronnie McFall named just two amendments to the team as Ken Oman and Gary Twigg came in for Garry Breen and Mark McAllister.
The hosts entered the contest on the back of a seven-game winning streak against Portadown – a sequence that had not seen them ship so much as a single goal – but they had Burke to thank for a fine fingertip save from Ross Redman’s ambitious 10th minute effort.
Jay Donnelly saw a header cleared off the line by Keith O’Hara before the deadlock was broken when James Knowles provided the pass from which Stephen Garrett powered home an inch-perfect strike.
Jay Donnelly made it 2-0 when he clipped the ball over Miskelly from Garrett’s assist and the Cliftonville number 10 wrapped up a fine individual performance when he completed the scoring with a 79th minute penalty after being felled inside the area by Keith O’Hara.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Flynn, Knowles, Curran, Garrett, M Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: McGovern, Ives (Seydak, 55 mins), McMullan (Knowles, 73 mins), C Murray, M Murray (Curran, 80 mins).
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Redman, O’Hara, McMahon, Murray, Mouncey, Oman, Gault, Twigg, Conaty. Subs: Brennan, Ramsey, Breen (Oman, 53 mins), Carson (Conaty, 50 mins), Soares (Twigg, 42 mins).
REFEREE: Andrew Davey (Bangor)