Match Report: Cliftonville 3-0 Ards
Danske Bank Premiership
Friday, 23 March, 2018
By Adrian Monaghan
Cliftonville had little difficulty in overcoming an Ards side that never really got going at Solitude last night. Ards never find it easy at Solitude, indeed, their last win against the Reds at the North Belfast venue was back in January 2006.
The visitors did start brightly enough – a wayward backpass in the opening minutes had Brian Neeson scrambling to recover, then Guillaume Keke raced in on goal, but his parting shot was tame and straight into Neeson’s arms.
Cliftonville opened their account on 12 minutes. A free-kick on the right was delivered into the penalty area where Jay Donnelly put a toe to the ball to squeeze it past an exposed Sam Johnston.
Johnston was kept busy thereafter and had to be at his best to stop an effort from Conor McDonald at the second attempt on 15 minutes. Jamie Harney, then Jay Donnelly tested the keeper soon after.
Ards were finding it difficult to curtail the quick movement of the home attack and were relieved to go to the break with only a one goal deficit.
The Red and Blues had their best chance of the evening on 65 minutes. A defence-splitting pass from Frazer put Keke in, but the impressive Neeson was alert to the danger and racing off his line blocked the Frenchman’s attempt, Jonah Mitchell couldn’t direct the rebound goalward.
Four minutes later Neeson made a fantastic save to prevent Jonny Frazer from levelling the contest. Mitchell went down the right and placed a dangerous pass into the six-yard box, Frazer was quickest to react and put a shot on target. Even though the Reds keeper was wrong-footed he still managed to nonchalantly stop the ball before it crossed the line.
Sam Johnston was in brilliant form and denied Harkin with a fine save to his right. The keeper, however, was powerless to prevent Cliftonville from doubling their lead on 73 minute. Donnelly headed downwards from a corner kick and the ball squirmed under the keeper’s body.
In the closing minutes Keke, again, found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but his finish was weak and Neeson gathered without breaking a sweat.
Donnelly showed him how it was done when he completed his hat-trick near the finish to give Cliftonville a comprehensive victory.
Ards – S.Johnston, R.Glendinning, M.Ruddy, C.Byers, J.Taylor, J.Kelly, J.Mitchell, K.Cherry, G.Keke, C.Stewart, R.Clarke. Subs - J.Frazer (for Stewart 20’), M.McLellan (for Clarke 60’). Unused subs – S.Davidson, L.Kelly, G.Tommons.
Referee – Raymond Hetherington