Football/Soccer

Cliftonville's Paddy McLaughlin hopeful of halting Institute's new manager bounce

Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin says this season will be one of the most exciting and competitive campaigns there's ever been
Diarmuid Pepper

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin is wary of a “new manager bounce” when his side face Institute this Saturday.

Sean Connor was appointed as the new Institute manager over the weekend and McLaughlin is aware of the invigorating effect that this can have on a team.

“Whenever a team get a new manager, they usually get some type of reaction from the players and sometimes it can kick-start the season for a lot of players,” McLaughlin told The Irish News.

“So let's hope that whatever reaction they get can wait another week. We have got to go and prepare as best we can. We have to turn up. Like every other game in the Irish League, it is going to be tough and it is going to be a battle.

“Institute is a really good footballing side but I know how good we can be as well so if we can play to our maximum I think we are strong enough to win the game. It will be tough with a new manager coming in, which will give them a boost, but we are prepared for a tough game.”

Cliftonville will go into the game at the weekend with a lot of confidence after their dismantling of Dungannon on Saturday past.

“We are delighted with how the game went,” said McLaughlin.

“It's not easy playing away to Dungannon, it's a tough fixture for any team. In their early season form, they have started quite strong, even though they have slipped up a bit in the last couple of games. But in general, it is a tough place to go to, so to come away with a 4-0 victory is great.”

Cliftonville sit third in the league, and while McLaughlin is happy with performances so far, he feels that his side could well be a few points better off than they currently are.

“We know we can improve in one or two areas. We lost at home to Crusaders and were very unlucky against Linfield. I think we deserved at least a point against Linfield.

“We had a couple of calls that went against us for penalties and we had a couple of half-chances in the game that we would have scored on another day. So we felt a bit hard done by in the Linfield game last week.

“But bar the Crusaders game, the boys have been superb and they deserve all the credit they're getting. If we are sitting third in the league seven matches in, we are happy with that. We could have one or two more points, but we are delighted with how things have gone so far.”

McLaughlin's counterpart for this upcoming weekend, Sean Connor, told BBC Sportsound that the Irish League is almost like three leagues in one; with a top four, a middle four, and a bottom four.

Currently, Cliftonville are in that top four and McLaughlin is intent on keeping it that way.

“We believe we are more than capable of being in the top four but I am sure that there are six or seven other managers who will tell you the same thing about their own team. It is very competitive.

“You have the established forced of Linfield and Crusaders. There is also the investment of Larne, Glentoran, Coleraine and Glenavon; it is going to be hard-fought throughout the season.

“The league winners could be one of six teams this year. There are one or two standout candidates but you could easily foresee four or so other teams mounting a real challenge. It is going to be exciting for the fans and the league and it is going to be a lot more competitive than it's been for a long time.”

Cliftonville is still mourning the loss of club legend Tommy Breslin and McLaughlin said it has been tough for the players to turn their attention to on-field issues.

“It has been a difficult couple of weeks, none more so than for the family. They have gone through a really tough time. We waited so long to get Tommy home to have his funeral, it's been difficult for the family but also for the club and the players.

“It is a sad time but let's hope now that the players can give the supporters and Tommy's family a lift in the coming weeks and months by playing some quality football and by getting some positive results on the pitch.”

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