Paddy McLaughlin was reluctant to be too critical of his side for missing chances after Cliftonville ultimately overcame Carrick Rangers by the narrowest of margins yesterday.
Ryan Curran’s 32nd minute strike proved decisive at The Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena, where the Reds passed up a number of gilt-edged opportunities to secure a more comfortable outcome, but after sealing a third straight Danske Bank Premiership success, McLaughlin paid credit to his defenders for ensuring there were no nervy moments late on.
“It was a bit of a scrappy game, the pitch was sticky and dry, so we knew we had to battle and we did,” he said.
“Carrick were well organised and they’re always well set up to make it hard for any team coming here but fair play to the boys, I thought they were excellent. It was important we kept a clean sheet, although we should have added to the goal we scored. With a wee bit more quality and by being a wee bit more clinical in the final third, we could have made it a much more comfortable day than it was.
“In the second-half, we created enough chances to put it to bed but Carrick defended really well. They worked their socks off, so you have to give them credit.
“I’ve had a go at the back four this season for giving away soft goals because you can’t expect to win matches if you give away soft goals. Big Declan O’Hara works hard with the back four and they deserve credit, they withstood everything that Carrick threw at them and the two centre-halves carried on where they left off on Tuesday night.”
The contest exploded in controversy in the second-half when Carrick’s Kurtis Forsythe was shown a straight red card for a forceful challenge on Paul O’Neill which sparked a minor skirmish that saw Cliftonville Assistant Manager Brian Donaghey and Gers coach Andy Hunter likewise dismissed by referee Evan Boyce. While acknowledging that Forsythe’s sending off was warranted, McLaughlin had sympathy for the 18-year-old.
“I didn’t really see it, it happened that fast,” he reflected.
“I think the young lad’s gone in for a fifty-fifty and he knew he had to win the tackle. I don’t know if the referee’s sent him off because he caught Paul O’Neill high with the challenge or if it was because he was the last man, I’m not too sure, but it’s disappointing for a young lad who’s only learning his way.
“At the same time, it doesn’t matter what age you are, if you make a foul like that and tackle somebody around the knee, it’s probably a red card offence. I’m sure he’ll learn from it. Fair play to him, he’d done well in the game.”