Levi Ives capped a second-half turnaround as Cliftonville battled back to overcome Ards at Solitude.
The full-back – who had contributed to Michael Ruddy putting the visitors in front from the penalty spot thanks to a quite unbelievable handball offence – pounced 20 minutes into the second-half to seal the points after Davy McDaid had squared things up just after the interval.
“The first-half wasn’t acceptable from us and we spoke about that at the break,” said home boss Gerard Lyttle.
“We did things much better in the second-half. We scored early, which was important, but our movement was better, our choice of pass was good and we showed a real desire to win the game.”
Having dipped into the transfer market this week, both managers named fresh arrivals in their starting XIs with Glentoran-loanee Kym Nelson handed a midfield berth for the Reds, who also listed defender Paul Finnegan – snapped up from Bray Wanderers – on their bench.
Visiting boss Colin Nixon will have been grateful that his opposite number must contend without Joe Gormley until next season, but one player eligible to participate on his Solitude return was former Reds defender Kevin Bradley, who moved to the nomadic north Down side from Larne in midweek.
With Joe McKinney having departed for Ballymena, Ards named striker Matthew Shevlin – signed on loan from the Sky Blues as part of that deal – among their substitutes but it was the familiar figure of Michael Ruddy who blasted them ahead; stepping up to score from the spot after Ives’ inexplicable handball.
The Reds were level early in the second period when the ball drop McDaid’s way and he made no mistake with a firm drive into the bottom corner. Cliftonville’s winner came from the most unlikely of sources when, after weaving some space for himself inside the area, Ives turned to plant a right-footed drive which squeezed just inside the post.
“We just didn’t do enough,” admitted Nixon. “It’s disappointing but we’ll work hard in training again this week and look to put things right.”