Cliftonville got off to a whirlwind start amid treacherous conditions in this afternoon’s Danske Bank Premiership victory over Ards.
After seeing his early penalty saved at a rain-lashed Bangor Fuels Arena, Joe Gormley played a key role in helping the Reds make the breakthrough; seizing on a loose ball to clip over a cross which defender David Elebert headed into his own net.
On 10 minutes, Gormley made it 2-0 with a close-range finish after good work from Rory Donnelly, whose own goal gave Ards renewed hope midway through the first-half.
Cliftonville took the sting out of things eight minutes after the interval, however, when a Levi Ives ball from wide on the left sneaked beyond everyone and into the far corner.
The deadlock should have been broken on five minutes when Craig McClean handled a cross in the box, prompting referee Ian McNabb to award a penalty but Gormley could only look on as keeper Sam Johnston dealt with his spot-kick.
But the Reds only needed to wait another three minutes to take the lead. On this occasion, Gormley did well to pick up the pieces after Johnston had raced out of his area to clear only to be beaten by the visiting striker’s cross which, under pressure from Donnelly, Elebert touched into his own net.
Soon later, Gormley made up for his penalty miss by doubling Cliftonville’s advantage when he tucked home Donnelly’s assist – only for Donnelly to halve his side’s advantage when he powered a header past Brian Neeson from an Ards corner.
Cliftonville should have restored their two-goal cushion just before the break, but Stephen Garrett couldn’t hit the target from inside the area after Ives crossed from the left.
But Ives went one better on 53 minutes as the Reds did grab their third when, again, a delivery from left made its way into the area and bypassed everyone en route to the back of the net.
Gareth Tommons came close to cutting Cliftonville’s lead again with a snapshot after meeting a cross from the right only for his effort to whistle just past an upright, but Cliftonville proved comfortable victors thanks in no small part to that blistering start.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Harney, C Curran, Garrett, R Donnelly, Catney, McConnell, Gormley, A Donnelly. Subs: Breen, Harkin, R Curran (McConnell, 64 mins), McDonald (Catney, 74 mins), Maguire (Garrett, 84 mins), McMenamin, McNulty.