A commanding second-half display saw Cliftonville return to winning ways at Ards’ expense this afternoon.
Ryan Curran’s precise finish put the Reds in front, only for the visitors to level courtesy of a disputed Darren Henderson penalty just before the break.
Joe Gormley’s spot-kick miss wasn’t to be rued, however, thanks to a well-taken strike from Conor McMenamin restoring Cliftonville’s lead ahead of Rory Donnelly making it 3-1.
Gormley wrapped up the scoring with a lobbed effort after good work from Donnelly as the Reds brushed off their frustrations of recent results to pocket full points.
Curran flashed an early attempt over the bar and McMenamin saw a free-kick charged down ahead of Ards carving out an opening of their own that saw debutant Jonathan Smith’s effort blocked by Joe Gorman.
A good run and cross from McMenamin forced visiting skipper Callum Byers into an acrobatic clearance before Rory Donnelly directed a header straight at goalkeeper Sam Johnston.
Buoyed by his goal at Coleraine a fortnight ago, Liam Bagnall was next to try his luck before Curran broke the deadlock just past the half-hour; his low, left-footed drive finding the net via the base of the post.
Ruairi Harkin saw a good chance to make it 2-0 go to waste when he shot straight at the keeper and it wasn’t long before Ards took advantage of that let-off when, under close attention from Bagnall and Jamie Harney, Kym Nelson went spawling inside the area Henderson stepped up to convert the resultant penalty.
The Reds should have restored their lead on 48 minutes when Byers’ trip on Ross Lavery had referee Arnold Hunter pointing to the spot again, only for Gormley to see his strike repelled by Johnston, who also got up to deal with the rebound.
Bagnall attempted a volley and Gormley was off-target with a close-range snapshot ahead of Cliftonville getting their reward on 63 minutes when Gorman’s headed clearance sent McMenamin on the chase and, after taking control of possession, he side-stepped Adam McAleenan to unleash a ferocious blast into the top corner.
It was 3-1 when Donnelly clipped the ball round Daryl Evans to tee himself up for the coolest of finishes before his 80th minute assist allowed Gormley to add his own name to the scoresheet with a well-taken lobbed effort.
Cliftonville: Brush, Harney, C Curran, Harkin, R Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Gormley, Lavery, McMenamin, Gorman. Subs: McKenna, McGovern, Breen, Garrett (McMenamin, 79 mins), Catney (Bagnall, 75 mins), McConnell (Harkin, 83 mins), Maguire.