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Defining moments costly: Paddy

Paddy McLaughlin lamented failures at both ends of the pitch as Cliftonville suffered North Belfast Derby disappointment against Crusaders yesterday.

Though 2-0 down at half-time, the Reds had seen two efforts hacked off the line and went close on a couple of other occasions before a flat second-half ended with the Crues adding a late third – and McLaughlin bemoaned his side’s inability to display the same level of clinicality in the final third.

“The game’s based on taking your chances when they come,” he said.

“We’ve worked some brilliant opportunities in the first-half – three or four golden opportunities not just to take the lead but also draw level. If we do either of the two of them, you’d expect it to be a completely different game.

“To go in at 2-0 down having created four or five brilliant opportunities, we were probably a wee bit shellshocked by it.

“You know what Crusaders are good at, you know what their strengths are and we dealt with it for the majority of the first-half but the two goals against are really soft. It’s disappointing from a set piece, then we have possession of the ball, give it away and concede almost instantly.

“Giving away soft goals and the chances that we created and missed are defining moments in the game.”

The Manager instigated a triple change early in the second period and, while that helped Cliftonville enjoy greater possession, McLaughlin admitted there was minimal threat attached to it.

“Odhran Casey was the only change from last week and I thought he did well in the physical battle in the middle of the park,” he added. “He won his headers, he won his tackles and him coming off was nothing to do with what he did in the game, it was just a case of changing personnel and getting forward-thinking players on the pitch.

“The sooner you score in the second-half, the more chance you have of pulling something out of the fire, which is why we changed personnel and shape early. We knew, at 2-0, Crusaders were comfortable enough and that we had to mix it up. With the changes, we probably got more of a foothold in the game but I don’t think we created anything you could say was clear-cut in the second-half and then, on the breakaway, Jordan Owens produces a brilliant finish and it’s game, set and match at that stage.

“We had a lot of possession but didn’t create enough at the top end and, as a team, we didn’t do enough to trouble Crusaders at all in the second-half after creating so many chances in the first-half.”

After a busy spell of action, the Reds now have a week until their next engagement and McLaughlin says he’ll be striving to ensure that his players approach next Monday’s encounter with Larne in a positive frame of mind.

“I’m really disappointed for the supporters who came here in their numbers,” he continued. “There was some crowd there and I don’t think we gave them the performance they deserved. That’s not me just playing up the crowd, it’s important that we play for the fans and when they come out in numbers like that, it feels like we’ve let them down massively.

“It’s important now for the players, myself and the staff that we go home and lick our wounds for a day or two but we’ve got a massive game on Monday against Larne and we’ve got to be ready for it. It’s my job now to get the boys lifted and get the heads up again.”