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Better by half

Paddy McLaughlin admitted that Cliftonville paid the price for their first-half performance in yesterday’s North Belfast Derby at Seaview – but has backed his players to respond in the right manner.

Crusaders were two goals to the good at the interval courtesy of a pair of poorly-defended set-pieces that saw Owens brothers Jordan and Kyle put the hosts into a commanding position.

The Reds were much improved after the interval and, though they enjoyed the bulk of possession, forced a raft of corner kicks and recorded a number of near misses, were unable to find the goal that might have opened up a route back into the contest, even after the Crues were reduced to 10 men when Rory Hale paid the price for a series of fouls.

“I’m disappointed with our first-half performance,” said McLaughlin.

“We know they’re strong from set-pieces. Crusaders’ strength is their direct style of play and it works for them.

“There was a strong breeze in our face in the first-half and it was hard to get out at times. We couldn’t build up any momentum but in the second-half we controlled much of the game and just missed getting the vital touch needed to put the ball in the net.

“I was disappointed we didn’t score after creating a few chances but sometimes that happens.”

Despite enduring Derby Day frustration, the Manager is not disheartened by Cliftonville’s prospects.

“On another day you, get something from the game,” he added.

“We did create chances but we lost the game, but the boys have been excellent and they’ve really bought into what we’re doing. If we keep developing the players, we’ll make the Club a force in the League again.

“From what I’ve seen so far, we’re not too far away. This Club should be challenging for trophies and that’s why I’m here.”