Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville's lethal finisher Boyce takes it all in his stride

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville 4 Ards 2: After producing a burst of opening-day magic to help Cliftonville get off to a winning start against Ards, Liam Boyce admitted his game has improved as his maturity's developed.

The Reds striker registered two goals – one of which was an incredible solo effort – as the champions marked their flag day celebrations with three points against a newly-promoted opponent that did enough to suggest they'll ruffle a few feathers throughout the campaign ahead.

Scorer of a club record-breaking 36 goals last season, Boyce revealed it was only when he got to grips with terrace trash-talk that he got back to his old self.

"When I was younger and first went away to different teams, I was gutted coming back and had to put up with the attention and fans shouting onto the pitch that I'm a reject, and I didn't really know how to handle it," he said.

"Now I know to just try to switch off, concentrate on the games and let the football do the talking. I wouldn't have done that when I was younger and things would have got to me more.

"It's going well at the minute and it's nice to be linked with clubs but I don't let it distract me, I'm just happy to be playing well."

The Solitude side – who trotted out beneath the newly unfurled Champions flag – were two Joe Gormley goals to the good at half-time, only for debutant Ben Roy to pull a stylish strike back for Ards.

Boyce made it 3-1 with a firm finish before extending the Reds' advantage further with an outrageous effort that he described thus: "I seen Stevie [Garrett] blocked the ball off their man and I just called at him to pass it back.

"I think their right midfielder came towards me and I sort of got lucky when I tried to play it into Joe's feet but it hit off their player, came back and I saw the big centre-back running towards me.

"I flicked it over him and the next thing I saw Joe was lying on the floor in front of me and I thought he was going to hit it and be offside. I couldn't really shoot because the keeper was that close so I dragged it past him and took a couple of touches just to make sure I scored."

Paul McDowell hit back with a consolation for Ards, whose boss Niall Currie said afterwards: "It was always going to be a very difficult opening match for us because Cliftonville are the best team in the country and we found that things we might have got away with in the Championship last season were punished.

"We're a young team without much experience in the Premiership but that'll come and I was pleased with certain things we did against Cliftonville. The key is for the players to believe in themselves."

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