Paddy McLaughlin says he couldn’t fault his players’ efforts in yesterday’s late loss to Larne at Inver Park.
An injury-ravaged Cliftonville side looked to have done enough to earn a battling Danske Bank Premiership point until the fifth minute of injury-time, when Josh Robinson’s header earned victory for the hosts and left the Manager expressing sympathy for his side.
“They left everything out on the pitch and it’s gutting for them to have been beaten by a set piece in the final minute,” said McLaughlin.
“We were up against it but we were solid and disciplined and defended really well against a very good Larne side that has a great record at home. The players worked so hard and we kept a good shape about us, so to concede the way we did at the end is tough to take and very disappointing for the players.”
Further frustrations endured by the visitors were the latest seemingly mandatory additions to the injury list.
Down in numbers going into the game, the Reds saw Conor McDermott hobble off in the second-half to be replaced by Aaron Donnelly, whose own comeback from a recent injury problem did not last long before he, too, was forced to retire.
“That’s just the way it’s going for us this season,” adds the boss, who was forced to contend without experienced campaigners Liam Bagnall, Jamie Harney and Levi Ives as well as youngsters Donal Rocks and Calvin McCurry.
“The intensity of the games is really stretching our squad and it’s tough for any team when they’ve two or three out, but when it’s sixes and sevens then it’s even more difficult to deal with.
“It was good to get Aaron back on the pitch after he’d been out for the last few weeks but he’s suffered a new, fresh injury. Those situations are hard for the individual players, but they’re tough on the team, too.
“We’ve got talented young players like Thomas Maguire and Daire O’Connor here as well as the likes of Odhran Casey and Conor Scannell, plus a few more coming through the system in behind them. You don’t necessarily want to be throwing youngsters in too early but if some of them have to be fast-tracked then that’s what we’ll have to do because the injuries are hurting us badly at the minute.”