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Pressed for team

Michael Press admits picking Cliftonville’s starting XI was a tough task ahead of yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership clash with Glenavon.

After taking an early lead through Ryan Curran, the Reds were forced to settle for a point when Stephen Murray levelled for the visitors and interim boss Press – who handed young midfielder Odhrán Casey his debut as a 79th minute substitute – had positives and negatives to take from the team’s performance.

“I was pleased with how we did in the first-half and we could have scored another goal or two but the second-half was poor from us,” he says.

“We didn’t keep the ball well enough and Richard Brush has had to save us. I thought our defensive shape and organisation was better than it has been of late and I’m proud of how hard everyone worked for each other. We played as a team.

“What I said to the players afterwards was that I think that’s exactly the sort of game they’d have lost last week. We dealt quite well with a lot of Glenavon pressure and I thought our set-up and shape at the back was much better. There’s still work to be done on that but we’ve only had a couple of nights training and this was the first game, but there were definite improvements in terms of keeping our shape and doing the sort of things that weren’t being done previously.”

When it came to deciding his line-up, Press adds: “There were a lot of big decisions to make and fair play to anyone who’s a Manager in the Irish League especially if, like me, they have a day job to balance on top of that.

“On Monday, we got everything sorted for me to come in. Tuesday was training, Wednesday was watching the Olympic, Thursday was training and then Friday night was spent trying to get Barry Johnston off the phone.

“I wanted to get some younger players in the team because I’ve always believed if you put your faith in a young player, especially one playing for his local Club, you’ll get that extra five or 10 per cent out of them and I think that’s what Cliftonville should be about.

“We had Aaron Donnelly at left-back, Joe Gorman’s still a young player at centre-half and I wanted Garry Breen in there because he’s an experienced player and a voice to help keep us organised. The same for Jaimie McGovern, who’s not a natural right-back but I wanted his experience in there to help the others out.

“We’d Ross Lavery on the wing and even Ryan Curran, on the other side, is still a young lad, so you need that mix of youth an experience.

“I was pleased to give Odhrán his debut because he’s a young player who we believe can have a big future. He’s only just turned 16 but, through my previous association with Cliftonville, I’ve seen him play a lot and I know he has a lot of promise.

“We’ve had a number of really good young players come through here over the years and Odhrán will hopefully be the next one.”