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Fronting up

Paddy McLaughlin admits Cliftonville were guilty of over-complicating things at times but is hopeful that yesterday’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Sixth Round defeat of Rathfriland Rangers can draw a line under a “disappointing” January.

Goals from Jamie Harney, Ryan Curran and Joe Gormley ensured a 3-1 success over the Amateur League side, who temporarily drew level when Stephen Hughes – brother of former Reds striker Daniel – found the net in the second-half.

Despite picking up silverware in the form of the County Antrim Shield, McLaughlin acknowledges it has been a tough few weeks but has backed his players to hit their stride again soon.

“We were always in control of the game but were probably guilty of doing a bit too much in the final third,” he says.

“We’ll just keep working away and I’ve no doubt we’ll be fine because when you’ve got boys of the quality of Joe Gormley, Michael McCrudden, Ryan Curran, Conor McMenamin, Thomas Maguire and even the likes of young Calvin McCurry on the bench, you have to be confident in what they can do.

“That’s McCrudden’s first 90 minutes in a year and it will be a massive benefit to him. Injury kept him out for a long time and he’s gone from not playing any football at all for months to playing four times in a few weeks and now he has a full game under his belt.

“You can see him starting to develop understandings with the other boys up front and he was just a wee bit unlucky with a couple of touches and final passes. He had one chance that he wasn’t able to take but, once he’s fully firing again, he’ll bang them in because he’s a quality player.”

The Manager also conceded he had mixed emotions when, just minutes after being pegged back, his side restored their advantage when Curran put the finishing touch on a smart move involving McCrudden and Gormley.

“Our response to their goal was good but it shouldn’t take something like that to give us a kick up the backside,” he adds.

“The second goal was a quality move well finished by Ryan Curran and an example of the kind of thing we’re capable of doing when we get things right in the final third.

“On the one hand, I was pleased with the way we stepped things up and showed that bit of quality to get ourselves a goal but, at the same time, as a Manager you’re standing there wondering why we weren’t doing things like that in the first place.

“January was a disappointing month for us all, performances and results-wise. The players know they can be better and I think it says it all that we’re in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup, still in the League title race and we have the County Antrim Shield in the cabinet and the boys are sitting in there disappointed with themselves.”

On being paired with Dungannon Swifts in the Quarter-Finals of the Irish Cup, he concludes: “They’ve made some good signings that have given them a real lift and you can see the improvement they’ve had in results over the last few weeks, so it’ll be a tough match but we’ve others to concentrate on before that comes around.”