It perhaps says everything about Cliftonville’s luck on the injury front right now that a black cat emerged from the home dugout and cut across Paddy McLaughlin’s path as he was lamenting the latest addition to Solitude’s casualty ward.
With Aaron Donnelly en route to hospital to assess the damage that led to his 29th minute withdrawal from last night’s County Antrim Shield semi-final defeat to Glentoran, McLaughlin outlined both his concern for the player and his own personal frustration with an injury list more crowded than one usually associates with the opening month of the season.
“It’s another one for us to deal with and we’re not having much luck on that front at the minute,” he said.
“Hopefully Aaron’s not as bad as we fear but it doesn’t look good, to be honest. We really missed him when he went off. Aaron Donnelly is the best midfielder at the Club. He faces some serious competition from the options we have in there but I’ve no hesitation in saying he’s the best and any team would miss their best player if they were forced out of a game with injury.
“We potentially face him being out for a while. On top of that, there’s Donal Rocks who’s done his cruciate, Calvin McCurry who’s done his cruciate and then Levi Ives is back in the boot with a metatarsal injury. Both Chris and Ryan Curran, Conor McMenamin and Garry Breen have had their problems in the last few weeks and Breeny’s taking painkillers to play through the pain barrier for us.”
And, just as the hitherto unseen feline made its appearance, McLaughlin added: “We’re not making excuses because injuries are part and parcel of football and every Club gets them but to have had that many in such a short time is really tough for us to take.”
The Manager felt a lack of cutting edge cost the Reds during long positive stretches of last night’s encounter and, having praised Liam Bagnall in the build-up for cutting “silly” bookings out of his game, was less than impressed with referee Shane Andrews’ decision to issue the midfielder with a first-half yellow card.
“I spoke too soon,” he admitted.
“I talked about Liam not picking up needless bookings but there he’s got one for being elbowed in the face. The boy’s stuck an elbow in Liam’s face and the referee has booked the pair of them. I can’t understand that at all. That’s Bags back to square one now and he ends up having to play the rest of the game at risk of a sending off.”
On the 90 minutes itself, he added: “We played some good stuff at times, especially in the first-half, but it broke down in the final third too often and that’s probably what’s cost us.
“It’s not like us because we’re usually pretty sharp and, as we saw against Carrick Rangers on Saturday, when we create chances, you’d usually rely on our front players to put them away but it didn’t happen for us here and it’s one we’ll look to put behind us and try to learn from quickly.”