Having secured their place in the top half of the Danske Bank Premiership with last night’s win against Portadown, Paddy McLaughlin has challenged Cliftonville’s players to see how high they can go in the table.
While he believes they didn’t get the goal return their performance deserved at Shamrock Park, the Manager insists the safety net of a UEFA Europa Conference League Play-Off position should not be a reason to ease off with seven League games remaining.
“We created loads of chances throughout the game and had golden opportunities to put the game to bed, but it was brilliant goalkeeping,” he reflected of the 2-1 victory that saw Ryan Curran register a first-half double.
“You’ve got to give the keeper all the credit in the world. I thought he was superb and he was like that against us earlier in the season.
“Fair play to him, on another day we could have taken advantage of the opportunities we created and could have scored more goals but we had to grind it out in the end. The most important thing is that we won the match, that’s what we went there to do.”
With just six points separating second and fifth in the table, McLaughlin acknowledges that everyone in the top-half apart from leaders Linfield will have ambitions of finishing in the runners-up spot and expects intense battles throughout the post-split fixture schedule.
“Second place is a realistic target, but it’s a realistic target for four or five teams and I am sure everybody has probably got their eyes on it,” he added.
“With so many full-time Clubs, staying in touch with the leaders and those Clubs was always important to us and we’ve done that up to now so we deserve our place in the top six, but it’s how high can we go – that’s the challenge now for the players.”
“If we keep playing the way we can play, it’s not out of our reach but we are delighted to get a shot at the European games and if we can do it without the Play-Offs that would be brilliant but if it ends up being a Play-Off place for us then so be it.”