Paddy McLaughlin insists he’s just as hungry as the fans are to enjoy a comfortable conclusion to a winning performance, but says he’ll happily put up with late-game nerves so long as it results in three points for Cliftonville.
Goals from Jamie Harney and Paul O’Neill appeared to put the Reds firmly in control of yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter with Coleraine, only for the visitors to hit back with a Ben Doherty penalty that threatened to set up a nervy closing 25 minutes at Solitude.
The dismissal of Bannsiders striker Eoin Bradley allied to Cliftonville going in search of a third goal meant that the potential for a backs-to-the-wall finale didn’t materialise – although there was still a sense of relief when referee Shane Andrews’ final whistle confirmed victory.
“It’s a brilliant win,” enthused McLaughlin.
“Coleraine have come into the game on a 17-game unbeaten run which is a phenomenal record at any level, especially in the Irish League because it’s such a competitive League and there’s not much between any of the sides, especially in and around the top end of the division. So for Coleraine to be unbeaten and for us to put that to an end goes to show how well and how hard we’ve had to work and how well we’ve had to play. I thought the boys were superb and deserved their victory.
“There wasn’t much between the sides throughout. The chance came to Harney just before half-time – great ball in, brilliant header. He’s showed great leadership skills standing in as captain in the absence of Chris Curran. He led his team by example brilliantly in his performance as well as scoring the opening goal.
“It makes a big difference for us going into the second-half with a lead. It was important we scored the first goal and then, in the second-half, I think we’ve created more chances than Coleraine. We could have scored a couple more.
“At 2-0, we knew the game wasn’t over and that there was still a lot to play for. Coleraine have got another penalty – they’ve had a few this year – and in the past we might have got a bit nervous but the boys managed the rest of the game brilliantly well. I thought they were excellent in their management of the game; they created a couple of chances and could have extended our lead but we were fully deserving of the victory.”
On that propensity for less than straightforward successes, McLaughlin added: “It would be great to win three or four some day but that doesn’t seem to be the way we do things.
“We make sure it’s bums on the edge of seats right to the end, but as long as we win you don’t mind that wee bit of edginess at times – but it would be great if we could make it a bit more comfortable for myself, the fans and the staff but I can’t give the players enough credit.”