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Matching up

Paddy McLaughlin says there’s no prioritising which games mean more than others and insists that the three point reward offered by every Danske Bank Premiership fixture means each challenge is as vital as the next.

Cliftonville travel to face Ballymena United this weekend on the back of a recent run that has seen Dungannon Swifts and Institute put to the sword but, while most observers note that the Sky Blues are more likely to provide direct competition to the Reds’ aspirations this season, McLaughlin refuses to put any additional emphasis on the encounter at The Showgrounds.

“We want three points against Ballymena just as much as we wanted three points against Institute last week or Dungannon before that,” he explains.

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing or what stage of the season you’re at – every point matters and, when you come to add them all up, wins against teams in and around the bottom count for just as much as wins against teams at the top.

“Ballymena will be a very tough game, but every Manager says that about every opponent every single week in this League. It’s relentless and you can never switch off because any team can beat anyone else.

“There’s good competition right through the division and, if we want to be one of the teams up there challenging, we have to make sure we treat every opponent the same and every match with the same level of importance.”