Paddy McLaughlin was delighted to see Ronan Doherty discover his shooting boots as the midfielder’s first League goal for the Club helped Cliftonville pocket all three Danske Bank Premiership points against Larne yesterday.
‘Olly’ blasted home with just five minutes on the clock and, though Ryan Curran, Aaron Donnelly and Rory Hale all went close to extending the Reds’ advantage, that early Doherty effort ultimately proved the difference between the sides.
“He’s not fond of striking in on goal but he should do because he’s got that in his locker and he should get further up the pitch,” said McLaughlin.
“We try to encourage him to do that but that’s probably my fault. I like to get him on the ball in our half of the pitch to start up our build-up play because he’s so good on it, but he’s taken it upon himself to get more advanced and it’s paid off, he’s hit it well and got us off to a good start.
“It was a good start to the game for us in general, I thought we came out of the blocks sharply and when we took that lead so early in the game, it was a brilliant start for us.
“We were playing against one of the best sides in the League and probably the best footballing side in the division. If you get anything against Larne, you’ll have had to fight very hard for it. I thought we were excellent in the first-half and, in the second, we managed situations really well and got a deserved three points.”
Another positive from the Manager’s point of view was the composed nature of his side’s defending during periods of pressure applied by the visitors, particularly after the interval. Having shipped costly late goals to Crusaders, Glentoran and Portadown, McLaughlin was pleased to see Aaron McCarey and his backline emerge with their clean sheet intact.
“That’s two clean sheets in three, but it could have been four in four if we hadn’t conceded those last-minute goals against Glentoran and Portadown,” he reflected.
“We’re learning but we’ve had to learn the hard way. I thought we saw the game out really well and, bar Jarvis’ strike which brought an excellent save out of our keeper, I don’t remember us looking likely to concede.
“For the last five minutes against the Glens and Portadown, I thought we looked a wee bit nervous and it’s cost us, but I think we’ve used those experiences to see things out comfortably enough against Larne.”
While the frustration of conceding last-gasp goals was parked for yesterday’s occasion, Cliftonville’s run of being denied stonewall penalties continued.
Having seen a host of strong shouts dismissed against Glenavon before a foul on Barry Coffey went unpunished against Glentoran and a handling offence by Portadown’s Adam McCallum was overlooked, this weekend saw arguably the most blatant claim of all dismissed when Garry Breen was cleaned out by Albert Watson just as he was preparing to get his head on a Hale corner delivery – however neither referee Keith Kennedy nor his assistant Adam Jeffrey saw fit to intervene.
With a wry grin on his face, McLaughlin added: “When you see some of the penalties other teams are getting, you’re going ‘Jeez, we’d love to get one of those calls some day’.
“It looked like a penalty from where I was standing but the referee sees it differently and you have to trust his call. If he doesn’t feel as if it’s a foul, that’s fair enough. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t give a penalty if he thought it was one.”