Paddy McLaughlin never doubted Joe Gormley would break his duck

Joe Gormley scored the winner for Cliftonville against Institute on Saturday

Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville 1 Institute 0

CLIFTONVILLE manager Paddy McLaughlin has praised the contribution of Joe Gormley after the Irish League’s leading scorer broke his duck to grab the winner against Institute on Saturday.

Although Gormley moved onto 20 in the scoring charts with the only strike in Saturday’s game at Solitude, it was his first in seven outings for the Reds.

However, McLaughlin says this was a stat that was never in danger of giving him cause for concern in the early days of his reign at Cliftonville.

“Joe’s level and standard is that high that everybody in the outside world thinks it’s a crisis if he goes a couple of games without scoring,” said the Reds boss after the victory over his old club.

“It was always the case that it wouldn’t be long before he was back amongst the goals again and, thankfully, it came yesterday because his general play has been excellent. He was man-of-the-match last week against Glenavon.

“He’s been great since I’ve come in, there’s no complaints there, and it’s good to see him back amongst the goals again yesterday.”

Saturday’s win was the fourth out of five attempts – and the fourth clean-sheet - for McLaughlin and he is content with the standard of play and the effect his tweaks have had on their defensive record.

“It was a good result, a good start too, with four wins out of five, and the defeat we did have, against Ballymena, we were unlucky,” he added.

“We’re lucky we’ve got good defenders there. Our goals against record hasn’t been great over the course of the season but, in recent times it’s been excellent.

“We’ve made small adjustments to the shape of the team, we’re able to work as a back three or back five depending on what’s happening in the game. The boys have worked really hard, they’ve been defending brilliantly.

“To get four clean sheets out of five games has been super. It’s not just for the back three as well, it’s all across the pitch, the whole team has to work hard to protect their goal and when we attack, we attack in numbers.”

This weekend, Cliftonville travel to Seaview to take on Crusaders in McLaughlin’s first north Belfast derby, a game he is relishing.

“I’m looking forward to it, especially on the back of the good month that we’ve had,” he said.

“Crusaders are one of the top sides in the division, they’ve proved that in recent times in winning a few league titles and they are the current champions as well, so it’s going to be tough.

“But it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to because we’re working hard, we’re developing all the time. There’ll be a good crowd on a good surface so hopefully it’s an entertaining game.”

Also on Saturday, Ballymena cut the gap to table-topping Linfield to six points with an emphatic win at Coleraine. Andy McGrory grabbed a hat-trick for United, with Coleraine's Gareth McConaghie getting his marching orders for bringing down Johnny McMurray. Adam Lecky got Ballymena’s other goal in a 4-0 rout.

At the other end of the table, 10-man Ards moved a point clear of basement club Newry thanks to a 1-1 draw at Glentoran. Michael McLellan had put Warren Feeney's side ahead just minutes before Kym Nelson was sent-off for coming together with Darren Murray, while it was Murray who tapped home a second-half equaliser to get the Glens a point.

Newry were left heartbroken after late goals from Paul McElroy and Johnny Lafferty cancelled out a Declan Carville goal to give Dungannon Swfits victory at Stangmore Park.

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