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Air’s breadth

Paddy McLaughlin was disappointed to concede from a corner kick after working so hard to nullify Linfield’s threat in the air yesterday.

Having gone close on a couple of occasions in the first-half, the Reds saw a number of penalty appeals turned down after the break, by which time a Jimmy Callacher header had put the visitors in front.

Referee Andrew Davey earned further ire from the home support after appearing to change his mind over the issuing of a booking that would have seen Blues forward Andy Waterworth dismissed in the closing stages, however McLaughlin was very clear about where his priorities lay during his own post-match surmisal.

“I’m disappointed first and foremost with the result,” he said.

“Results are what we’re here for and trying to achieve, so that’s the biggest thing for me.

“It was a disappointing goal for us to concede because we actually spoke about the threat that Linfield have. Their deliveries are very good and Callacher attacks it really well, so it’s disappointing because that’s something we’d identified.

“Chances were few and far between in the game because both teams defended very well.

“Over the course of the 90 minutes, I felt we were fairly evenly matched, there wasn’t much in it at all. We worked hard, we defended well, we attacked well – all fairly similar to what Linfield did – and I think a draw would probably have been a fair result but sometimes results can hinge on decisions and I think one or two didn’t go our way, which is unfortunate but that’s just the way it goes.

“There’s a few key decisions the referee’s got to make and when they don’t go your way, you can be bitterly disappointed but you’ve just got to accept his call on it. He doesn’t see the Waterworth one as a booking. The majority of the ground probably did but, at the end of the day, only one person’s opinion matters and that’s the referee’s. He’s the man in charge and if he doesn’t give it, you’ve got to just accept it.

“In terms of the penalties, I’d need to see some of them back but I think we should have had at least one. We had three calls but, again, the referee hasn’t given it and you just have to move on.”

As Cliftonville ramped up the pressure in response to falling behind, McLaughlin introduced three additional attacking threats from the bench – Stephen Garrett, Ronan Wilson and Thomas Maguire – and revealed a number of his players battled through the pain barrier over the course of the afternoon.

“Ruaidhri Donnelly and Conor McDermott were struggling with knocks but they came through for us and we lost Liam Bagnall to a nasty enough injury, too,” he added.

“We’re not really sure how it happened but there was a really deep cut. It’s never good when you can see right through to the bone, put it that way.”

On his introductions, he concluded: “Linfield were defending really well and we were rotating our front three, or front four as it was at times.

“We were trying to come up with something to break them down. You can be a bit predictable at times when you’re just up against the same player, so rotating three or four around meant we could ask different questions of them but, fair play to Linfield, they defended very well and take the credit for that.”