Tommy Breslin: Cliftonville had to use Conor Devlin
Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin said he had no choice but to play goalkeeper Conor Devlin against Ards on Tuesday night, as back up keeper Ryan Brown was unavailable.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed on the morning of the Danske Bank Premiership match that Devlin was set to meet with police in connection with an alleged assault on Glentoran player Jim O'Hanlon.
Breslin considered leaving Devlin out – not because of the O'Hanlon incident – but because the former Manchester United trainee had picked up an injury in Saturday's 2-2 Irish Cup draw with Coleraine.
Unfortunately, the decision was made for him as Ryan Brown was unavailable due to personal circumstances.
Breslin explained: "Conor picked up an elbow injury against Coleraine on Saturday, so he was already a doubt.
"We asked Ryan Brown to step in but, unfortunately, there is an illness in the family at the moment, so he wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind to play at Bangor.
"If I had both Ryan and Conor available I would have opted for Ryan, purely because of Conor's injury, but that wasn't the case, so we had to play Conor." Devlin received a warm reception from the Cliftonville support as he helped the Reds to a 3-2 win over Ards, that saw the champions close the gap on league leaders Linfield to a point.
Manager Breslin says he and his squad are focusing on playing football.
"There has been some fuss, and I don't want to downplay what has happened in any shape or form, but football is the only thing I'm interested in.
"We trained hard on Monday night and we beat Ards on Tuesday night, and that's what it's all about for me. I'm glad we were able to put all the other stuff to one side. Somebody else can look after that side of things, my concern is with the team and they played with a lot of intensity against Ards.
"The boys knocked it about well and we had a lot of the ball. If our final pass had been better we could have won by a larger margin."
Joe Gormley struck his 29th and 30th goals of the Reds claimed a vital victory and although they won by only one goal, Breslin was delighted with the performance.
"Maybe I'm seeing it through tinted glasses, but I thought we could have won the game in more style.
"Some of Boyce and Gormley's link-up play was outstanding and, with a bit more care, we could have by a larger margin. We gave away a soft goal, which brought it back to 3-2 and then you're worrying.
"I'm just delighted we got the three points, because Ards are a team fighting for their lives."
Cliftonville welcome Portadown to Shamrock Park on Saturday, a team who they have not beaten this season.
"It's a big game, but they're all big games at the moment. Our next four games are Portadown, Coleraine Crusaders and Linfield, so there is no rest.
"We've found it tough against Portadown this season. We were ahead of them twice in the 83rd minute this season, yet we've taken only one point off them.
"They're a hard team to play against and a hard team to break down, so we will need to improve to beat them. It's a heavy schedule at the moment so we will have to shuffle the pack on Saturday, with the Irish Cup replay on Tuesday and the League Cup final the following weekend."
Meanwhile, Ards will face Dungannon Swifts at Clandeboye Park tomorrow, as they aim to save their season.
With landlords Bangor playing Dundela in Championship One at 2pm, Ards will kick-off at the unusual time of 5.30pm.
They will be without midfielder Sean Cleary, who was sent off in Tuesday night's 3-2 defeat.
Ards boss Niall Currie was less than impressed with the performance of referee Ross Dunlop.
"I thought Sean's second yellow card was ridiculous. Tommy Breslin was standing beside me shaking his head.
"I'm just looking consistency and a fair crack of the whip, and I don't think we're getting a fair crack of the whip at the moment."