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Highest orders

Despite the inevitable regrets associated with any defeat, Paddy McLaughlin believes there was encouragement to be taken from how Cliftonville responded to his instructions to push higher up the park in the second-half of last night’s Danske Bank Premiership loss to Ballymena Unitd.

Trailing to a Cathair Friel goal at the interval, the Reds played with a clearer intensity after the turnaround but fell further behind when Leroy Millar doubled the hosts’ advantage and, though Rory Donnelly’s instant response sparked what the Manager called “one-way traffic”, Cliftonville were unable to fashion a late leveller during a rousing finale.

“In the first-half, a lot of our play was inside our own half and we didn’t really threaten Ballymena much,” he admits.

“At half-time, we encouraged the players to play higher up the pitch and be more of a threat in the final third. The boys responded to that very well.

“The response to going 2-0 down was fantastic, we scored straight away and I think it was one-way traffic from there on in but Ballymena showed their quality in defending to hold on. That’s why they’re fighting for the title at the top of the League because they showed that maturity to see the game out.”