• Jana McCabe

Cliftonville 4 - Ards 1

By Jana McCabe

Ards travelled to Solitude to face a Cliftonville side who featured on both the front and the back pages of the local newspapers for much of the week before this clash. Ards handed debuts to a couple of their January signings, with Jonathan Smith and Darren Henderson spearheading a new-look Ards forward line, and Daryl Evans starting in a reshuffled defence.

In the second minute Ryan Curran’s shot from the edge of the box was wide of the right hand post whilst, for Ards, Jonathan Smith’s free kick was wide of the left hand post in the fifteenth minute.

Eamon McAllister’s curling shot was then well saved by Cliftonville stopper Brush in the twenty third minute. Chris Curran’s pass to Rory Donnelly saw his close range header well saved by Sam Johnston.

In the thirty second minute, the home side broke the deadlock when a turn and strike from Ryan Curran (a former Ards mascot) trickled through the arms of Johnston to make it 1-0.

Adam McAleenan’s long ball found Gareth Tommons as Ards looked to respond before the break, but his header was off target in the forty first minute.

In the last few minutes of the first half Stephen Garrett brought down Kym Nelson in the penalty box, with the referee awarding Ards a penalty. Debutant Darren Henderson’s spot kick sent Richard Brush the wrong way and made it 1-1. The half ended seconds later.

The penalties kept coming as, in the forty seventh minute, Ross Lavery was brought down by Ards captain Callum Byers. Joe Gormley stood up to take the spot kick but Sam Johnston saved at his left hand post, also saving the rebound to keep the game level at 1-1.

Liam Bagnall’s shot from outside the box was wide of the right hand post in the fiftieth minute whilst, in the sixty first minute, the busy Nelson was through on goal but the referee blew offside to the irritation of the Red and Blue Army.

In the sixty second minute, Conor McMenamin gave Cliftonville the lead when his skilful play saw him beat a number of Ards defenders, before finding space near the left hand byline and coolly sliding the ball into the top right hand corner.