Turn of praise
Paddy McLaughlin admits that, while Cliftonville achieved their overall objectives in last night’s County Antrim Shield defeat of Bangor, he was left a little flattened by the team’s overall performance.
The Reds found themselves 2-0 down with less than half an hour remaining at Solitude but roared back through headers from Daniel Kearns and Aaron Donnelly before Joe Gormley’s double sealed a semi-final berth and left McLaughlin toasting his players’ response to a shock setback.
“Fair play to them, they showed good desire and determination to swing the game round with 30 minutes to play so, while we’re disappointed with most of the performance, there are positives to come away with,” he said.
“We’ve made a number of changes, players have built some extra fitness, we’ve come through with no injuries and we’re into the semi-finals but I suppose overall we got what we wanted out of the game.”
The Manager made 10 changes from the side that started the weekend win over Larne, with the most notable introductions being teenage Olympic graduates Michael Morgan and Sean Moore – both of whom showed flashes of quality during a first-half in which Cliftonville failed to really ignite.
“It was a frustrating oul night, especially for the first hour,” added McLaughlin.
“I’m disappointed for the two young lads who made their debuts because we had to sacrifice them at half-time just to get a wee bit more experience on. It was no fault of theirs, I think as a team we were disappointing.
“It was no reflection on their performance, I thought the two boys did well and did all they could with the service they got. They didn’t really get any service at all, so we had to make changes and I think the last half an hour of the game was a wee bit more like us.
“Michael and Sean will be back. They’ve shown how good they are in training and did what they could with the service they got, so we’ll see them again, that’s just the start of the journey for them.”