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Hit for sicks

Paddy McLaughlin admits he was sickened to emerge from last night’s Danske Bank Premiership clash against Ballymena United with just a point and says Cliftonville have to learn lessons from their recent habit of conceding “soft” goals.

The Reds looked to be coasting towards victory thanks to a brace of wonderful Jamie McDonagh strikes, but the hosts hit back through Leroy Millar on 87 minutes before Paul McElroy’s injury-time penalty rescued a draw.

“It was sickener,” said McLaughlin.

“We controlled the game. The conditions and the pitch weren’t great for football but I thought both sides did their best and we controlled a lot of the game.

“At 2-0 up, I thought we were comfortable enough. We had a couple of chances to extend the lead but obviously the first goal gives Ballymena a lift and the chance to throw the kitchen sink at us. Unfortunately, we cracked again. We’re really disappointed with the two goals and the manner of them because I thought we’d learned from that over the past couple of games but it’s something we’ve got to work extremely hard on because we can’t keep conceding soft goals.

“The performance was excellent but the result’s disappointing. We’ve got to learn to knuckle down, see out games and batten down the hatches when pressure comes our way.

“We’ve conceded two goals we shouldn’t have done, there was no real danger in the build-up to either of them, there’s no wave of attack. It’s just a couple of hopeful balls into the box and we didn’t deal with them, but we will deal with it, we’ll learn from it and we’ll come back stronger.”

The Manager’s frustration didn’t preclude him from acknowledging McDonagh’s latest goalscoring contribution, but it remained obvious that the team’s late collapse remained at the forefront of his thinking.

“We should be coming away from the game talking about Jamie McDonagh,” he added.

“He’s played brilliantly and scored two great goals, but we’re coming away talking about how disappointed we are that we’ve conceded two soft goals so it’s frustrating in that sense, but we win together and we lose together and we don’t win any game or lose points individually. As a collective group, we’re disappointed.

“We’ve been here a couple of times and it’s my job to reinforce that message more firmly. We can’t keep talking about it and tip-toeing around it, we concede too many soft goals. As a team, we’ve top, top quality right across the pitch, on the bench and in the squad and it’s criminal we’re conceding and dropping points the way we are, so we’ve got to learn quickly because it’s frustrating for the fans, but also for the players for all their hard work that they’re only coming away with a point.”