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Sailing close to the win

Paddy McLaughlin admits that Cliftonville underperformed in yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter with Institute, but was loathe to be overly critical of a performance that nevertheless yielded three points and a clean sheet.

Indeed, the Reds have conceded just one goal in their last four outings and last shipped from open play almost a month ago, with only Linfield – who have played four fewer games – having been breached less on League duty.

This weekend, a solitary Ruaidhri Donnelly effort was enough to get the better of Stute, whose goalkeeper Paul Wells saved Ryan Curran’s second-half penalty before doing well to stop Conor McMenamin from finding the net.

“I know supporters want to come here and be entertained by their team scoring four, five and six goals, but it doesn’t always work like that,” said McLaughlin, who has overseen high-scoring victories over Warrenpoint Town and Dungannon Swifts in recent weeks.

“When you get matches like this, when you’re not at your best, the most important thing is just making sure you get the win and, at the end of the day, a win and a clean sheet when you haven’t played well is a good sign.

“A fortnight ago, we played much better against Linfield and had nothing to show for it, so sometimes you just have to accept you’ll get days like this and, so long as you win them, take the points and move on.”

Having lost Levi Ives to an injury in the opening minutes, McLaughlin used his remaining substitutions to manage the game and nullify the growing threat that Stute posed in the aftermath of the penalty miss.

“They’re not the sort of changes you’d ideally want to make but, the way the game was going, it was better to be safe and make sure we got the job done,” he added.

“Liam Bagnall is still suffering from an injury and I didn’t want to have to play him at all, but I felt we were getting outmuscled in the middle of the park which was disappointing, so he went in there to help us start winning that battle again.

“Then, at the end, Stute have four players up front so we’ve brought Joe Gorman on to give us that extra protection to try and see things out.

“We lacked tempo at times and it’s not the way we would have wanted to win but credit to Stute, they got that bounce from a new Manager coming in and they made it very hard for us. All that matters is that we won the game, but ideally we’d want to improve on how we did it.”