Cliftonville put Irish Cup defeat behind them with league win at the Oval
Danske Bank Premiership: Glentoran 0 Cliftonville 2
CLIFTONVILLE buried the ghost of their Irish Cup defeat at the Oval on Saturday, while manager Paddy McLaughlin was richly rewarded for throwing down the gauntlet to his players.
The Reds had bowed out of the Irish Cup with a 1-0 defeat in east Belfast two Saturdays ago, with McLaughlin critical of their lack of attacking threat. In Saturday's league game, he could have no complaints as his side hit two without reply on the road.
After a quiet first-half at the Oval, Rory Hale broke the deadlock for Cliftonville with a stunning effort from the D on the edge of the Glentoran box. Michael McCrudden sealed the win late on, with Dáire O'Connor playing a role in both goals.
“We challenged the players to change what had happened last week and change that mind-set of getting forward and being more threatening,” McLaughlin said after the victory.
“Every time we attacked, we looked like we could score. Dee – our statman in the stand – tells me we'd more strikes on goal in the first 25 minutes of the game than we did in the last seven full 90 minute matches, so that was the response we were looking for.”
“Whenever I criticise us for not scoring goals, I'm not pinpointing any particular player or anything like that – I'll never do that. It's a part of the game we should have been better at last week, but we were superb at it this time.
“That's come from our full-backs getting forward and our midfielders busting their balls to get forward and get on the end of things. The boys were superb. I wasn't talking about our forwards when I criticised any area of how we played last week – we defend and attack as a team.”
There was mixed news on the injury front for the Reds, with the return of defender Levi Ives to fitness balanced out by the addition of Liam Bagnall and Garry Breen to an already lengthy list.
“Levi looked like he'd never been away,” added McLaughlin of Ives who had been out of action since October.
“We threw him in at the deep end with no real game preparation. It shows how highly he's thought of that as soon as he declared himself fit to play, we put him straight in and we knew he wouldn't let us down. He has good energy, good ability and one thing about him is that he'll put his body on the line for the team and he did that again.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Linfield missed the chance to wrap up the title at Windsor Park as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Larne. Larne took the lead through Ronan Hale and while Niall Quinn looked to have rescued a precious point for the Blues with five minutes remaining, Josh Robinson popped up on the brink of injury-time to give the visitors victory.
The gap between Linfield and second-placed Coleraine is now five points after the Bannsiders battled to a 1-0 victory over Crusaders at Seaview thanks to a James McLaughlin header. David Healy's men will travel to Coleraine next Tuesday in the penultimate game of the season.
At Stangmore Park, visiting Ballymena cruised to a 3-1 victory over basement club Dungannon Swifts, while Portadown managed a 2-1 home win over Carrick Rangers. On Friday night, Glenavon hammered Warrenpoint 4-0 at Mourneview.