Paddy McLaughlin believes Cliftonville will reap the benefits of a hard-working weekend of cross-channel friendly action.
After tackling Bala Town at Maes Tegid yesterday, the Reds faced The New Saints at Park Hall this afternoon and, though defeated 2-1 on both occasions, the Manager was pleased with what he saw as he and his coaching staff put the squad through their paces in readiness for the 2022/23 season.
The competitive action kicks off when Cliftonville take on DAC in the first leg of their Europa Conference League first qualifying round tie on July 7, but McLaughlin was at pains to point out that they are preparing for more than just their continental excursions.
“Over the course of the weekend, the boys were superb,” he said.
“We had a really tough couple of days with training and playing, and even the travelling. It’s been good for the players’ development and for the group going into the European games and next season.
“Saturday was a long day. We were on the go from three o’clock in the morning and playing 12 hours later, so it was a lot to ask of the players but it was no problem to them; they coped with it well and, in terms of the demands that were placed on them, I thought they were excellent, all of them.”
The opening contest saw the Reds trail 2-0 before Jonny Addis pulled a goal back late on against Bala, with McLaughlin acknowledging that the circumstances leading up to the game meant that assessment of the performance had to be taken in contest.
“We played really well but conceded two soft goals which is something we need to correct but, in general play, I thought we did really well,” he explained..
“Today’s game was really good, the standard of play against a side as good as TNS was of a good level. Both sides put on a good display which showed us where we’re really at because preparation was good going into the game, whereas yesterday was a long day and it was hard to really judge where we were really at.”
Ronan Hale headed Cliftonville in front in Oswestry, only for the home side to turn things around in the second-half, with McLaughlin reflecting: “The TNS goalkeeper made three or four unbelievable saves and we’ve conceded from a free-kick which was very good. We gave the ball away cheaply for their second one but the goals we’re conceding are not major issues, they’re just small details that we need to tidy up on and take out of our game.
“In general play, our fitness levels, speed of movement on the ball and quality of our play has been excellent and that’s a good thing going into not just next week but the season ahead. All this hard work we’re doing at the minute, travelling over here to play matches and facing Shamrock Rovers and Derry City, is not just geared towards the European games, it’s geared towards next season.
“If we can maintain this standard and fitness levels and keep improving then, come the start of the season, our boys are going to be more than ready for it.”