Cliftonville's players celebrate after winning the JBE League Cup for a fourth year in a row (Picture: Kevin Scott/PressEye.com)
Saturday, 13 February 2016
Cliftonville are the JBE League Cup winners for the fourth successive season after a 3-0 defeat of Ards in tonight's decider at Solitude.
In a tentative opening to the game, during which both sets of players sized each other up, the first clear chance didn't arrive until the half-hour mark when Cliftonville's David McDaid put the ball through Ards 'keeper Ryan Brown's legs but defender Greg Hall was perfectly placed to clear off the line.
Not long after, at the other end, Jordan Baker came close for Ards with a close range header which he put just wide.
However, that proved to be only a temporary respite for the Championship side when, five minutes later, Martin Donnelly put the holders in front after curling a low shot just inside the post.
Gerard Lyttle's side might have doubled their advantage moments from the break when Craig McMillen conceded a penalty for handball but Brown produced a brilliant save to keep out McDaid's subsequent spot-kick.
Baker threatened for Ards again early in the second half after being played through by David McAllister only to be denied by a well timed tackle.
McDaid redeemed himself for his earlier penalty miss just after the hour to double Cliftonville's lead when he pounced on the loose ball to turn it into the net from six yards.
To their credit, Ards kept plugging away and might have got on the scoresheet through substitute Stephen O'Neill only for his header to be cleared to safety.
Then, as the game moved into the closing ten minutes, but Eamon McAllister and Hall saw efforts kept out by Conor Devlin as Niall Currie's side attempted to claw their way back into contention.
But, with seven minutes to go, an already difficult task become well nigh impossible when Stephen Garrett extended Cliftonville's lead at the second bite after his initial effort was saved by Brown.
Ards: Brown, Hall, Gage, Cully, Lambe, Dorrian, McMillen, Arthurs, D. McAllister, Baker, Carson subs Convery (not used), O'Neill (replaced Dorrian 46), Browne (not used), Warwick (not used), E. McAllister (replaced McMillen 73)
Cliftonville: Devlin, Cosgrove, Smyth, McGovern, Ives, M. Donnelly, Catney, Knowles, Curran, J. Donnelly, McDaid subs Bonner (not used), Flynn (replaced McGovern 77), Garrett (replaced McDaid 81), George (replaced Curran 86), Mooney (not used)
Referee: Andrew Davey