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Finishing power

Paddy McLaughlin said Cliftonville’s first-half clinicality was key to yesterday’s victory over Newry City.

The Reds roared out of the traps at Solitude, where the game was done and dusted by half-time thanks to a Rory Hale hat-trick and a tap-in from Ryan Curran.

Though the hosts entered the interval with four goals to their name, City had not been without chances of their own and twice struck the woodwork throughout an encounter that was closer fought than the scoreline would suggest.

“It was a ruthless performance in the first-half and it felt like every chance we created, we scored,” reflected McLaughlin.

“I don’t remember us missing too many chances but Newry had their chances too and could have kept themselves in the tie but we had that wee bit of luck whereas we scored the chances we created and that was probably the difference.”

The pick of Cliftonville’s goals was undoubtedly the third; Ronan Hale plucking Ronan Doherty’s lofty pass out of the air and squaring for Ryan Curran, whose touch allowed Rory Hale to pounce from deep, skipping past three challenges before slamming home his second of the game.

“We played through the three zones, building up from the back and I think nearly everybody got a touch of the ball at some stage,” said McLaughlin of that effort.

“Then Rory’s having one of those days where everything he hit and every decision he made was on the money but I’m sure he’ll be the first one to point out that it’s the players around him who help make him the player he is.

“He has been absent with a cut that should only have kept him out for a week or 10 days maximum but then it got infected and that’s just down to bad luck. That extended the length of time he was out by a couple of weeks but he’s recovered from it well and is back firing again.

“It’s important we keep him and everyone else fit because we’re heading into a real key stage of the season with a lot of big games coming up. We’re playing three times in six days this week, then we’ve Tuesday and Friday games next week so this is going to be a really challenging period for us.

“Apart from Levi Ives, who should be back around Christmas time, and Stephen Mallon, who we’re hoping will be back in a few weeks, we’ve got everyone available and it’s important it stays that way.”