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New kids on the block

Jim Magilton saluted the contribution of Cliftonville’s young guns in yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Linfield at Windsor Park.

The Reds brought the curtain down on their Sports Direct Premiership season by earning a point courtesy of Sam Ashford’s late leveller and, having handed debuts to Keevan Hawthorne and Joe Sheridan alongside the introduction of fellow Academy star Ryan Corrigan in the second-half, Magilton reflected on a rewarding 90 minutes from his perspective.

“We got minutes into players that needed minutes,” he said.

“Jonny (Addis) hadn’t played, we managed to get Sam (Ashford) back on the pitch, Shea Gordon hasn’t had an awful lot of minutes – and he got 90. I’m delighted with that and then we obviously had the three young lads come in and do a fantastic job for us.

“The huge benefit with these lads is that they’re training with this group three nights a week and they’ve come on leaps and bounds. They’re hard working boys, they take in the information and they’re all coachable, which is fantastic. They listen to the senior players, their technical ability is there for everybody to see.

“Young Joe Sheridan has stepped into the centre of the park and been brave in taking the ball and hitting a few passes; Ryan Corrigan has been unlucky once or twice and Keevan Hawthorne has made the goal.

“What I notice about these young lads now is that they go into these scenarios with no fear because they back themselves. Obviously, we back them – they have to have our confidence, which is very important. It’s their progression now, we have to keep pushing them and keep challenging them.”

Cliftonville will, of course, return to Windsor Park for next weekend’s Clearer Water Irish Cup Final with the Blues and the Reds boss has urged his players to maintain the positive approach they have displayed throughout his tenure.

“It’s been my first season in the League, I’ve enjoyed it immensely – the ups and the downs, the rollercoaster that is football,” added Magilton.

“Overall, I’m so pleased with the players and our approach to games have been to go and win them and that’s very pleasing. Now we’ve got to go and try to win a Final and ultimately, the focus will be on that – all the hullaballoo outside of that will take care of itself but, as a group of players, our mission is to focus on winning a massive game.”