Cliftonville overcome opening day nerves to see off Carrick Rangers
Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville 2 Carrick Rangers 1
CLIFTONVILLE came out on the right end of an opening day scrap against Carrick on Saturday with manager Paddy McLaughlin delighted the Reds avoided a Rangers sucker-punch at Solitude.
Although a close range Lloyd Anderson volley had given Carrick a first-half lead in north Belfast, Cliftonville were in front by the break via two brilliantly placed headers from Jamie Harney.
Cliftonville passed up several chances to put the game to bed in the second-half and when the likes of Ewan Kelly, Stuart Nixon and Lee McNulty spurned their own opportunities to give Carrick a point towards the end, McLaughlin was content the experiences of last season didn't repeat themselves.
“The third goal kills the game off,” he said on the final whistle.
“We had numerous chances to score it, but that happens. Sometimes you miss chances and you give up soft chances, but it's important to dust yourself down to go again and we did that throughout the game.
“You don't need to tell us how many late goals we conceded last year or how many points it cost us, so last season that game could easily come back to bite us with the chances we missed. The players have learned that the hard way and it's good that they were able to grind it out at the end.
“We shouldn't have had to grind it out, we had opportunities to put the game to bed and when you don't take them, you do run the risk of being sucker-punched but, fair play to the boys, they held on at the end.”
The Reds are back in action at Solitude tomorrow night against Coleraine, who began their campaign with a 4-2 defeat to Larne on Friday, and McLaughlin is hopeful his team played all the early season nerves out of themselves on Saturday.
“The most important thing is winning the game, that's what we came here to do,” the Derry men added.
“I certainly think we can play a lot better at times and we looked a wee bit edgy and a wee bit nervy. That comes with the expectation that's on them and rightly so because they're good players, so once you get the first win out of the road and the first three points on the board, I think everything else will be a lot better.
“I think it's important to remember that we came here to win the game and we got it, even though it did look a bit scrappy.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Linfield got their title defence up and running with a 2-0 victory over Crusaders at Windsor Park. Christy Manzinga grabbed both goals for the Blues who were given a boost before kick-off with the news that manager David Healy has agreed a new three-year contract.
Robbie McDaid, Conor McMenamin and Rory Donnelly were on target for Glentoran as they edged out Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park, while Warrenpoint beat Ballymena 2-1 at Milltown.