IRISH LEAGUE: Ards open Danske Bank Premiership campaign with hard earned draw against Cliftonville

Cliftonville's Levi Ives battles with Fra Brennan
Cliftonville's Levi Ives battles with Fra Brennan

ARDS 2 CLIFTONVILLE 2

A stunning Joe McKinney equaliser gave Ards a share of the spoils, as Cliftonville failed to get their domestic season off to a winning start.

An entertaining opening day encounter saw the two clubs draw 2-2, with Ards coming from behind on two occasions to claim a shock point. The talking point was McKinney’s sensational solo equaliser in the 72nd minute.

Ards started brightly, with Michael Ruddy tested former Ards goalkeeper Jason Mooney in the 11th minute when he tried his luck from 25 yards, but the Millisle man tipped the ball away from goal, with an impressive save.

Ards winger David McAllister gave the Reds a scare in the 14th minute when he sent the ball across goal from left-hand side of the box. The cross-cum-shot was inches wide of Mooney’s far post.

As the half progressed Cliftonville started to look more lively. Chris Curran found the side netting in the 17th minute, when Ards failed to clear a corner-kick.

Jay Donnelly almost broke Ards resistance in the 22nd minute when he slipped in between two defenders, but goalkeeper Aaron Hogg was out quickly to block the Reds’ forward’s effort.

Cliftonville had the lead in the 28th minute. The Reds cut Ards open with a well-worked move down the left-flank that saw Jay Donnelly slip the ball into the path of left-back Levi Ives, who poked the ball into the net with his right foot, for his first Cliftonville goal.

Despite conceding the goal, Ards refused to roll over. They were awarded a penalty in the 35th minute when Craig McMillen’s cross was blocked by the hand of defender Caoimhin Bonner, leaving referee Keith Kennedy with no choice but to award a spot kick. Michael Ruddy dispatched the ball into the top right corner for a goal on his Ards debut.

Cliftonville retook the lead a minute into the second half, when a Martin Donnelly corner-kick caused confusion in the Ards box. Lethal striker Jay Donnelly latched upon the uncertainty, to loft the ball over the head of Hogg and into the Ards net, from a tight angle.

The travelling Red Army though Marty Donnelly had made it 3-1 in the 52nd minute, but his 10-yard effort only hit Hogg’s side netting.

But Ards worked their way back into the game.

In 72nd minute Joe McKinney produced an equaliser that will live long in the memory. The attacking midfielder collected the ball on the right-flank 25-yards from goal, showing great control, before ghosting past a Reds defender and cutting in towards the goal. The Glentoran youth product pushed into the box, holding off the Cliftonville defender, before firing the ball past Mooney.

McKinney’s solo effort was enough to give Ards a deserved point.

ARDS: Hogg; Brennan, Friars, Taylor, Ruddy; McMillen, Cherry, McKinney, McCullough (Arthurs 52), McAllister (Hughes 82); Keke

Subs Not Used: Hall, McMullan, Rea

CLIFTONVILLE: Mooney; Cosgrove, Bonner, McGuinness, Ives; Curran (D. Murray 75), Knowles (Winchester 62), Catney, M. Donnelly; J. Donnelly, McDaid (Hughes 82)

Subs Not Used: McGovern, Ramsey

Ref: Keith Kennedy