Paddy McLaughlin says Cliftonville’s players responded to the challenges set for them in yesterday’s 2-0 victory over Glentoran at The Oval.
A week on from suffering Irish Cup elimination at the same venue, two Daire O’Connor assists teed Rory Hale and Michael McCrudden up for the goals that earned all three Danske Bank Premiership points in a brave performance that delighted the Manager.
“The boys were superb,” he declared.
“I wasn’t talking about our forwards when I criticised any area of how we played last week; we defend and attack as a team.
“Whenever I criticise us for not scoring goals, I’m not pinpointing any particular player or anything like that – I’ll never do that. It’s a part of the game we should have been better at last week but we were superb at it this time. That’s come from our full-backs getting forward and our midfielders busting their balls to get forward and get on the end of things.
“We challenged the players to change what had happened last week and change that mindset of getting forward and being more threatening. Every time we attacked, we looked like we could score. Dee – our statman in the stand – tells me we’d more strikes on goal in the first 25 minutes of the game than we did in the last seven full 90 minute matches, so that was the response we were looking for.”
Having enjoyed the better of the first-half play, the Reds saw a golden opportunity go to waste shortly after the break when McCrudden touched wide from a point-blank position but McLaughlin insists he never doubted that his players would kick on.
“When Michael missed that chance, I don’t think there was ever a thought of that being our only chance gone – we knew by the way we were playing that we’d create more,” he added.
“That proved to be the case and fair play to Michael and Daire, I thought the two of them worked really well together.
“Michael’s won Player of the Month for April but has picked up a knock for the last three or four games. Nobody knows that he’s been playing with a wee bit of an injury but we took him out of the firing line to try and rest that last week and then he comes back and has shown his quality again, along with Daire who was superb.
“Rory has been great for us too since he arrived in January. He gives us energy, drive, good leadership skills, he demands off people and also has that goal threat in him and I was delighted to see him cap off a good performance with a fantastic strike.”
While Liam Bagnall and Garry Breen were the latest additions to what the boss describes as an “horrendous” injury list, the return to action of Levi Ives was a huge positive regardless of the outcome of the game.
“Levi looked like he’d never been away,” said McLaughlin of the defender who had been sidelined since October.
“We threw him in at the deep end with no real game preparation and no five-ten minutes in the build-up to this game. It shows how highly he’s thought of that as soon as he declared himself fit to play, we put him straight in and we knew he wouldn’t let us down. I thought he was excellent right throughout the match. He has good energy, good ability and one thing about him is that he’ll put his body on the line for the team and for the Club and he did that again.”