Paddy McLaughlin expects Cliftonville to live up to high standards
Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville v Larne (today, 3pm)
DESPITE progressing to the quarter-finals of the League Cup on Tuesday night, Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin was far from a happy man.
Although the Reds had put three past Bangor at Solitude, they had also conceded two on the night, raising the Derry man's ire. By the end of the week, however, McLaughlin was in a more philosophical mood, give his side's solid start to the season.
“At the beginning of the season, we knew we had to tighten up defensively because we'd conceded too many soft goals last year, but I think we've got four or five clean sheets so far this season, so it's definitely been an area that we've improved on,” the former Institute boss said.
“When we have improved on it and we've defended really well in recent games, to concede two soft goals on Tuesday night was disappointing, so I let the players know that as well. They know they've set standards over the season so far, so the two goals that were conceded were unacceptable.
“They were reminded of their duties, but it's nothing to worry about, it's a mid-week game, it's a game where we rotated a few players, so it's nothing that we're worried about. We know that we're a lot better than we showed on Tuesday night, so we'll be working on it as the season goes on.”
With the attacking riches that Cliftonville have at their disposal – Joe Gormley grabbed another two on Tuesday, while Ruaidhrí Donnelly nabbed the other – it must be tempting to take your eye off the ball defensively, and McLaughlin isn't ignorant of the privilege.
“Joe's been super, he's been what he is the last so many years,” he added.
“He's scoring goals on a regular basis and he's the top marksman in the division at the minute. As long as Joe Gormley keeps doing that, we more than stand a chance of beating anybody and, if we keep defending as we have done bar Tuesday, we've always got a chance of keeping clean sheets.
“It's not bad. They boys are performing well, they're performing at both ends of the pitch, so long may it continue.”
This afternoon's visitors Larne look poised to give their hosts a few more defensive headaches, despite their midweek League Cup exit to Dundela. The Inver Park men racked up six against Glenavon last Friday night and they are just one place behind Cliftonville in their first season back in the Danske Bank Premiership.
With the likes of former Cliftonville stars Conor Devlin, Martin Donnelly and Tomás Cosgrove in their squad, McLaughlin is aware they will pose a serious threat.
“I expect them to be really strong, they're a good side,” he said.
“If you've seen the calibre of player they have, they've got some of the best players in their positions in the league. It's going to be a difficult game. There's four or five ex-Reds men playing for them as well and I'm sure they'll want to come back and make a point as all players do when they come back to play against their former club and their former team-mates.
“We'll be expecting nothing more than a massive challenge and a difficult game, but the boys have prepared well for it, they've trained well this week and looked after themselves and they know what's needed to get a result.
“It's going to be the same needed as last Friday night [v Glentoran, 1-0] – a good, solid performance right throughout the game – we can't play for 20 minutes or half-an-hour at a time and expect to win the game. Another performance like that and we'll get the three points.”
Cliftonville will have new signing Mark Kee available for this afternoon's game. The former academy player had previously starred for Stevenage in England's League Two.