Paddy McLaughlin toasted Cliftonville’s never-say-die spirit after yesterday’s injury-time victory over Glentoran at Solitude.
After falling behind to an early Paul O’Neill header, the Reds were rewarded for a superb second-half performance when Rory Donnelly levelled ahead of Ryan Curran settling the issue with a dramatic late strike.
“I think the players have received a lot of unfair criticism this season,” said McLaughlin after overseeing the fifth win of his seven games at the helm.
“If people want to talk about character and bottle, we saw that. We didn’t have a good first-half and spoke about it at half-time. I’ve said over and over again that these players are great at taking on information and putting it into practice and we saw that in the way they played in the second-half.”
Hailing a committed team effort, the boss couldn’t help but lend particular praise to how Cliftonville’s midfield stepped up to the task after the interval and was delighted with skipper Chris Curran’s contribution.
“Chris is the perfect captain and he always gives his all for the team,” he added.
“He’s had to play in a few different positions this season because of injury and suspension and whatever else, but I’m sure he hasn’t once complained or moaned about it. He gets on with his job and he’s such an important player for us.
“Since I’ve come in, he’s been asked to play a slightly different role from what he’ll have been used to but you see the difference he can make when he gets the ball down and drives at defenders. The way he played against Glentoran, especially in the second-half, was probably the best performance of any player since I’ve been at the Club.
“Everybody was good though, they all did their bit. The defence was solid, the front players worked hard, the wide players got themselves involved but it was our improvement in midfield that made such a big difference.
“Aaron Harkin dictated things for us in there and I thought Niall Grace had an outstanding game. They’re two players I know well because I’ve worked with them before and it was great that the Club signed them before I came in – they know how I want the game to be played and I think if there were any Man of the Match awards being given out, Niall Grace must have been right up there for it.”