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Paddy hails five-star show

Paddy McLaughlin believes Cliftonville’s performance against Portadown yesterday demonstrated the spirit that exists within his squad.

Entering the contest on the back of three consecutive Danske Bank Premiership defeats, the Reds set about their task from the beginning and were rewarded with a hat-trick from Michael McCrudden, whose 77th minute replacement Daire O’Connor opened his goalscoring account for the Club with a quickfire double to put the seal on an emphatic 5-0 success.

“Nobody hurts more after losing games than the players,” said McLaughlin.

“They put the work in during training and work their socks off in matches, so there’s no questioning how much defeat hurts them.

“I think we saw a response against Portadown but it wasn’t just a response to the games that we’ve lost recently, it was a response to some of the criticism they’ve been on the end of.

“Nobody is above criticism and we certainly deserved some after the Ballymena game on Tuesday night, but a lot of what I read and heard about the players was very harsh and over the top at times. I can’t agree with some of the stuff that was said about them but that’s something I’ve noticed –  when it comes to Cliftonville, it doesn’t take much for the critics to come out.

“I thought we were unlucky to lose in the manner that we did against Larne last weekend, conceding in the final minute of injury-time against a top side, and then obviously against Ballymena we were way off where we should have been. I think a few heads went down but, for this game, we focused on trying to get control of the ball and the game from early on and I think our desire and our spirit really came to the fore.”

The Manager was reluctant to offer commendation to individuals after a superb team performance against the Ports, but McCrudden’s treble naturally earned a mention.

“I’ve always known what Michael is capable of,” he added.

“I’m pleased for him to have got his goals because I know he gets frustrated when he’s not on the scoresheet and he cares about how the team is doing, so that’s going to be a massive lift for him, but I honestly don’t think I can single anyone out because everybody played so well.

“It was pretty much perfect from our point of view and exactly what we needed to do.”