Cliftonville go top with a little help from Rory Hale
Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville 4 Newry City 0
A FIRST-HALF hat-trick from Rory Hale powered Cliftonville to top spot in the Danske Bank Premiership at the weekend. And manager Paddy McLaughlin has praised the Reds' ruthlessness as they staked an early season claim to be once again in contention for honours come spring.
Cliftonville got all four of their goals against visiting Newry City in the opening period at Solitude, with Hale opening the scoring in the 12th minute with a powerful strike from wide on the left which found the net off a post.
Ryan Curran grabbed Cliftonville's second with a poacher's effort after a stinging shot from Hale was parried by City 'keeper Steven Maguire. Hale's pace proved too much for the Newry defence for Cliftonville's third and he grabbed his hat-trick after good work down the wing by brother Ronan.
“It was a ruthless performance in the first-half and it felt like every chance we created, we scored,” said McLaughlin afterwards.
“I don't remember us missing too many chances but Newry had their chances too and could have kept themselves in the tie, but we had that wee bit of luck whereas we scored the chances we created and that was probably the difference.”
“Then Rory's having one of those days where everything he hit and every decision he made was on the money, but I'm sure he'll be the first one to point out that it's the players around him who help make him the player he is.
“He has been absent with a cut that should only have kept him out for a week or 10 days maximum but then it got infected and that's just down to bad luck.”
The Reds are back in action tomorrow night when they host Carrick Rangers in the second round of the League Cup and McLaughlin knows the importance of having a healthy squad for the busy period ahead.
“It's important we keep everyone fit because we're heading into a real key stage of the season with a lot of big games coming up. We're playing three times in six days this week, then we've Tuesday and Friday games next week, so this is going to be a really challenging period for us.
“Apart from Levi Ives, who should be back around Christmas time, and Stephen Mallon, who we're hoping will be back in a few weeks, we've got everyone available and it's important it stays that way.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, 10-man Linfield battled to a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park, while Carrick Rangers came out on the right side of a 4-3 thriller with Crusaders at Taylor's Avenue. Larne moved into second place in the table thanks to a 2-0 win over Coleraine.
In the pick of Saturday's County Antrim Shield draw, Linfield will travel to Cliftonville next Tuesday (October 11) for a quarter-final showdown. On the same night, Ards will host Glentoran and Ballymena will travel to Larne while Carrick are at home to Dundela.