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Focus points

Paddy McLaughlin saluted Cliftonville’s focus and never-say-die attitude after Ryan Curran’s late winner saw off Larne in yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership clash at Solitude.

After seeing Joe Gormley stroke a second-half penalty wide of the mark, the Reds were grateful to goalkeeper Richard Brush from a raft of fine saves either side of Curran’s intervention as the hosts made it back-to-back wins to end the opening round of League fixtures with 22 points from the 33 on offer.

As well as his obvious delight at securing victory, McLaughlin paid tribute to a solid defensive effort that yielded a second successive Premiership shut-out.

“That’s five clean sheets in the League and eight overall this season, which isn’t a bad record at all,” he said.

“Everybody deserves credit for that but especially the defenders because they live for clean sheets and you saw the way they were putting their bodies on the line at the end there.

“Then we have Brushy behind them making more great saves. He’s brilliant to work with and I fully believe he’s the best goalkeeper in the Irish League at this minute in time. With the players at the back in that sort of form and with the attacking qualities we have, we’re always going to be in with a chance.”

McLaughlin was as surprised as anyone to see Gormley miss the target with his 54th minute spot-kick but insisted he didn’t lose faith in his team’s prospects.

“There was too long left on the clock at that stage for us not to have another big chance,” he added.

“I knew we’d keep doing what we could to create something and Ryan Curran has come on and produced something big for us at an important stage in the game.

“We had to work very hard for it because Larne are a good team, there’s no doubt about that. It wasn’t always easy on the eye but there’s been games this season when we’ve played better than that and lost.

“I think a lot of people thought this would be an open game because of the style of football both teams play, but I didn’t expect that. I knew it would be tight and that it was going to be a day for rolling the sleeves up, doing the ugly stuff and taking your chance when it comes and I’m delighted we did that.”