Paddy McLaughlin was pleased that Cliftonville benefited from the mini psychological reward of climbing into fourth place in the Danske Bank Premiership with yesterday’s 5-0 defeat of Carrick Rangers – but acknowledges that, with just 10 points separating five teams in the top half of the table, now is not the time to reflect on a job well done.
Michael McCrudden claimed his third hat-trick of the season alongside efforts from Garry Breen and Barry Coffey as the Reds completed their pre-split fixture schedule with a comprehensive victory in the Solitude sunshine.
“The boys have been superb since the turn of the year but it seemed that no matter how many games we won or how many points we got, we never seemed to move position in the League,” said McLaughlin.
“We’ve finally jumped up a position but there’s still a lot to play for and a lot of big games coming up after the split. They’ll be five really tough matches. We know all about each other and it’s all to play for now.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position going into the split and hopefully we can close in on second and third place. We know second definitely gets you into Europe and third is a possibility, so we’re closing in on those positions and are hitting top form at the right time of year.”
While there were a string of positives to take from yesterday’s win, McLaughlin bemoaned the addition of Liam Bagnall and Aaron Donnelly to an already overloaded casualty list.
“That’s another two who’ve gone off injured, which takes us up to 15 injured senior players,” he added.
“It’s an horrendous injury record but it’s good to see the young players coming through and being given their chance because they deserve it. They’ve been here with us all season and bided their time. If they weren’t good enough, they wouldn’t be here.
“Odhran Casey has come on and done well, Stephen McGuinness has just turned 17 and I thought he was superb in the second-half. He got booked early on, which I thought was a bit harsh on him, but his performance after that was top drawer. He played it with experience if you like – he played the situation really well, didn’t get involved in any tussles or any silly tackles after his booking. He’s going to be a class player for us.”