Cliftonville made it five away wins on the bounce with a hard-fought victory over Ards at The Bangor Fuels Arena this afternoon.
Having previously gone nine months without any kind of success on the road, Jay Donnelly’s first-half strike was enough to extend the Reds’ recent run against a battling Ards side, who came close to levelling when David Elebert crashed a header off the post.
After Joe Gormley had seen a third minute effort correctly disallowed for offside, some neat build-up play between Gormley and Rory Donnelly ended with Jay Donnelly racing through on goal only for his low strike to come back off the base of the post.
Gormley then provided a moment on individual inspiration when, in possession on the edge of the area, he found himself crowded out by the Ards backline – and remarkably chose to simply lift the ball over their heads and charge through the crowd, before laying back to Levi Ives, whose cross was cut out.
The deadlock was finally broken on 24 minutes when Rory Donnelly’s touch teed up younger brother Jay, whose low drive eluded the grasp of goalkeeper Aaron Hogg.
Hogg came to Ards’ rescue shortly afterwards, though, when he got down to grasp Gormley’s cross just as Rory Donnelly was attempting to pounce, while the half ended with Jay Donnelly steering a tame strike straight at the keeper after a superb counter-attack down the right.
Ards grew into the game after the interval but were unable to work Brian Neeson, although Elebert’s header left the Cliftonville stopper flat-footed as the ball came back off the inside of the post before being cleared to safety.
Gormley and Stephen Garrett each drew saves from Hogg as the Reds sought the second goal that would have made for a more comfortable conclusion while, in the contest’s final act, substitutes Daniel Hughes and Martin Donnelly were unable to make the most of a late surge forward as the visitors held on for three points.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Garrett, Winchester, Gormley, J Donnelly, R Donnelly. Subs: Hughes (for R Donnelly, 74 mins), M Donnelly (for Gormley, 86 mins), Bagnall (for Winchester, 74 mins), Lavery, A Donnelly.