Paddy McLaughlin was thrilled with Cliftonville’s display in yesterday’s North Belfast Derby defeat of Crusaders but reserved special praise for the three Rs – Ryan Curran, Ryan Catney and Richard Brush.
Curran’s first-half doubled earned the 2-0 win, but it was Catney whom the Manager insisted produced a Man of the Match display in a game that saw Brush produce an incredible double save to preserve the Reds’ lead.
“We got off to a great start with the two early goals,” said McLaughlin.
“We could have had a goal or two more but really pleasing for me was our defending. Everybody knows how Crusaders go about things – they play to their strengths and it’s been very successful for them.
“Set pieces cost us the last time we played them and that was something we focused on in training this week and I’m delighted the players took what we worked on into the match with them.”
On Curran’s brace, the boss said: “Ryan’s one of the best in the division and he’s only going to get better.
“He’s been playing off the strikers, scoring goals and contributing so much to the team overall.
“He’s been in that kind of form since the day I came in the door and, come the end of the month, when Player of the Month and even Player of the Season awards are being given out, Ryan should be part of everyone’s thinking.”
The individual accolades theme continued, with McLaughin adding: “Ryan Catney produced a brilliant performance in the middle of the park, it was a leader’s performance and I know how much it will mean to him to captain Cliftonville to a win in the North Belfast Derby.
“In my eyes, he was Man of the Match and that won’t surprise anyone here because he’s been a great servant to this Club over the last 12 years. He’s been a great leader and he has a legendary status that nobody will ever be able to take away from him.”
As comfortable as Cliftonville’s victory was, things could have grown tense in the final quarter-of-an-hour had Crusaders reduced the deficit with either of the opportunities that fell their way during the second period – both of which were expertly repelled by Brush.
After his flying fingertip save had turned a fierce Jordan Forsythe strike against the bar, the Englishman picked himself up to somehow touch Kyle Owens’ rebound onto the post to preserve his clean sheet and make sure of the Derby Day points.
“I think any goalkeeper would have been happy with either one of those saves, nevermind the two of them,” reflected McLaughlin.
“The first one was fantastic but you’re thinking it’s not going to count for anything and he won’t get any credit for it because they score the rebound, but to save that too was unbelievable.
“You saw from the reaction of the crowd how great a save the second one was and it was important because a Crusaders goal at that stage could have made a big difference but credit to Richard, that’s why he’s one of the best about.
“Any Club would be pleased to have one top quality goalkeeper, but we’ve got two in Richard and Bam Neeson and we’re very lucky to have the both of them.”