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Calm and collected

Paddy McLaughlin toasted Cliftonville’s composure as he reflected on last night’s Danske Bank Premiership draw with Linfield at Windsor Park.

After falling behind to an early Jordan Stewart strike, the Reds dominated possession throughout an absorbing contest and were rewarded when Joe Gormley planted a header home following a sumptuous Jamie McDonagh cross.

While he admits regret that his team were unable to go on and win the game, McLaughlin was full of praise for the players’ application.

“We knew we were coming to the home of the Champions, who were coming off the back of a good performance and result on Tuesday night and had their tails up,” he said.

“That goes to show how well we’ve played that there’s a slight hint of disappointment – not total disappointment – with the draw. On the overall balance of play, I think we were the better side, played the better football and created the most chances, especially late in the game, so there’s that wee hint of disappointment but I’m so proud of the players and their response from being 1-0 down.

“We were disappointed with the goal, although I think it took a deflection. We defended well all night and nulified the threat of Linfield until they had a few wee half-chances when the game got stretched at the end, but I thought our defenders and goalkeeper – and even the players in front of them, right across the pitch from top to bottom – worked their socks off throughout.

“We looked very composed in our defending. People can get nervous out there, Windsor’s an intimidating place and they were up against some of the best players in the division, so to go and play and defend with the composure we showed throughout the match was excellent.”

McLaughlin also took a moment to explain the rationale behind McDonagh’s substitution, which saw him replaced by Rory Hale mere seconds after he’d whipped in the cross from which Gormley levelled.

“We’d obviously made the decision before the goal,” he said.

“We knew we needed Rory’s legs on the pitch because he brings so much to the team and he’s such a good player. Jamie’s got that in his locker all day but we still believed the game was there to be won and Rory could have been the link to win it and he was involved in so much of our good play going forward – so it was nothing to do with Jamie, it was just a tactical change that we felt we needed.”