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Learning point

Naturally disappointed to have dropped two points against Carrick Rangers last night, Paddy McLaughlin has backed his players to respond in the right manner.

Contesting their fourth game in just 11 days, Cliftonville had led 3-1 at the interval but, after conceding a goal early in the second-half, shipped a last-gasp equaliser that saw victory turned into a draw on a rainswept evening at Loughview Leisure Arena.

“When you’re 3-1 up at any ground, you’re hoping and expecting that you can see the job through,” said McLaughlin.

“We’re disappointed that we haven’t. It’s a hard-earned point but it should be three. It’s a difficult place to come, we knew that before we started, and that proved to be the case but we’ll just have to take the point and move on.

“It looked like a bit of a soft free-kick given away, then it’s probably the last attack and last throw of the dice for Carrick. I think we’ve had two or three going for the same ball and none of them really won the header clean and they’ve landed on the second and punished us for it.

“The manner of the goal is extremely disappointing, especially because it’s come so late in the day when we looked like we’d seen the job through – but it’s a young group, we’re learning on our feet all the time and it’s important we learn from that and see out games. That deep into the game, you can’t be conceding soft free-kicks and you can’t be conceding soft headers and second balls.

“We’re disappointed and we’re frustrated at the minute but Carrick’s a difficult place to come for any team. Linfield and Crusaders have struggled here and I’m sure that if Carrick work like they did and play as well as they did, especially in the second-half, other teams will find it really difficult here too.

“The three goals have come from crossed balls that I don’t think we’ve dealt well enough with as a team – not as a back four, as a team. You have to stop the supply and then obviously win the headers and second balls but I think we looked a bit nervous at times at crossed balls from wide areas.

“The surface and conditions obviously played a part in the second-half but that’s no excuse, we should be dealing with things better. Like I said, it should have been three points, but we’ll take one, move on, learn and make sure we’re better next time.”

The Manager also provided an update on goalkeeper Nathan Gartside, who was forced off just before half-time – but, thankfully, not with the serious injury that had first seemed apparent.

“Nathan’s sick, he’s picked up a bit of a bug,” explained McLaughlin.

“He wasn’t feeling the best going into the game and we weren’t too sure if it was just the journey up or something he ate, but he was vomiting a bit so obviously his stomach’s not settled at all, so we had to take him off.

“He wanted to stay on but we felt it was best to listen to the doctor’s advice to take him off the pitch because it’s important to look after him but hopefully he’ll be OK come Monday or Tuesday for training.”