Paddy McLaughlin lamented a “bad night at the office” on three fronts following Cliftonville’s North Belfast Derby defeat to Crusaders.
An untidy 71st minute goal, credited to Jordan Owens, ultimately proved the difference between the sides but it was not just the result that upset the Manager, with long stretches of his team’s performance and a number of players being forced off with injuries adding to his concern.
Levi Ives was the first to depart and it’s arguable that the tactical reshuffle which followed led to Cliftonville losing a foothold in the middle of the park, while Conor McMenamin’s exit early in the second-half further stifled the visitors’ flow ahead of central defender Garry Breen having to be replaced just minutes before Crusaders got their goal.
“A disappointing night, not a great match to watch I’m sure,” reflected McLaughlin.
“I don’t think either side played particularly well in terms of what you would expect from two of the top sides in the division.
“I don’t think we built up any kind of momentum. First-half, we kept it well enough but it was all in our own half.
“We dealt with the long ball throughout the game and I think a big turning point was Garry Breen going off injured, that was key because we conceded straight away and I think it was always going to be a 1-0 win. The first goal was vital and, unfortunately for us, Crusaders got it.
“You know when you’re playing Crusaders, there’ll be a lot of long balls, it’s their strength. Big Owens is a handful, but we did brilliantly until Breen went off. It was just unfortunate that we conceded two minutes later and I think the response from our boys has to be better.
“We didn’t create enough chances, maybe one or two half chances at best and that has to be better as well.”
McLaughlin also revealed that he expects to be without the injured trio for vital upcoming challenges.
“Unfortunately, we’ve picked up injuries too, possibly long-term injuries, so it was a really bad night at the office for us.
“Levi Ives could have a metatarsal injury, hopefully not but it could well be. He was tortured with it last year, it came back so many times that it almost cost him a full season.
“Breen’s hamstring went and Conor McMenamin has a hamstring injury too so it’s really disappointing to lose three key players not just on the night but also for the weeks ahead.”