Cliftonville 3 - Ards 1
By Jana McCabe
In this last Ards fixture of September 2018, which has included three goalless draws including against high-flying Linfield, and progress to the next round of the County Antrim shield, Ards looked to bounce back from their only league defeat this month against Glenavon last Tuesday. The back five especially have performed exceptionally well this month, with this game promising to be a tough challenge against an in-form Cliftonville side.
An early Kym Nelson free kick gave Ards a goalscoring opportunity but his deflected freekick was wide. Jay Donnelly then saw his header palmed over by Sam Johnston in the ninth minute. Mark Kelly was then replaced by Michael McLellan in the fifteenth minute after a collision.
Donnelly was in action again when Sam Johnston saved his strong shot with his follow up being cleared by Johnny Taylor. Ryan Strain’s freekick was tapped over by Richard Brush as both sides looked for a break through.
Then, in the thirty fifth minute, Ards got the first of the game when Jonah Mitchell’s clearance fell to the feet of Michael McLellan. Even under pressure from Cliftonville’s Levi Ives and Conor McMenamin, McLellan’s forty yard wonder strike sailed into the Cliftonville net. 1-0 to Ards in some style and a definite contender for goal of the season.
Ives’s strike from outside the box then tested Johnston but his fine save denied the curling shot and the half ended 0-1.
In the forty ninth minute Cliftonville fans thought they’d got a leveller with Chris Curran’s shot nearly sneaking into the top corner. Gormley’s powerful header was then saved in the sixty ninth minute as Cliftonville looked for an equaliser.
Ards continued to be strong in defence when both Callum Byers and Josh Kelly bravely intercepted goal bound shots consecutively. David McAllister’s well timed pass to goalscorer McLellan gave him a great opportunity to get his second but Cliftonville stopper Brush intervened. Strain’s close range shot then tested Brush whose deflection gave Ards a corner but the Cliftonville defence cleared the danger.
In the seventy eighth minute Johnston came out of his goal to try and save Conor McDonald’s left side shot. However McDonald cleverly passed to Gormley whose shot couldn’t be stopped by the Ards defence and his strike levelled the game.
In the eighty fifth minute Stephen Garrett’s shot struck the bar with Gormley’s follow up strike being just wide as Cliftonville pushed for a winner.
In the eighty eighth minute Ards couldn’t clear the danger and McMenamin’s close range shot took a deflection, beat Johnston and gave Cliftonville the lead.
Then in injury time dangerous Gormley got his second when, one on one with Johnston, he slotted home to make it 3-1 in injury time. This makes Gormley the joint top scorer for Cliftonville ever. The game ended seconds later.
After a very strong first eighty minutes, a disappointing last ten saw Ards leave Solitude with no points to show for their efforts. Attentions now turn to Friday’s rearranged league game against Institute.
Starting 11: Sam Johnston, Michael Kerr, Callum Byers, Johnny Taylor, Josh Kelly, David McAllister, Jonah Mitchell, Craig McClean, Kym Nelson, Mark Kelly and Ryan Strain.
Used substitutes: Michael McLellan (for Mark Kelly), Kyle Cherry (for Kym Nelson) and Scott McArthur (for Ryan Strain).
Unused substitutes: David Elebert, Jason Mooney, Marc McKenna and Adam McAleenan.