CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin is confident his team have learnt from the mistakes of their last two derby games ahead of this evening’s meeting with Crusaders.
Crusaders make the short trip to Solitude (7.45pm kick-off) looking to maintain their unbeaten run in the derby this season.
The Shore Road side claimed victory at Seaview in October but salvaged draws in the other two fixtures courtesy of injury-time equalisers.
McLaughlin believes his side are capable of responding to any set-backs due to the nature of their season and is delighted to be able to welcome back the home support that has been missing since December.
“We’ve had our fair share of bad luck this season with late goals and with bad injuries, but we’ve learnt our lesson and I’m sure we won’t have to learn them again,” said McLaughlin.
“Whatever comes our way, I’m sure the players are more than capable of dealing with anything. They’ve been through everything else this year and I don’t think anything will shock us from here on in.
“It’s brilliant to see (fans return) and it’s about time. We know how intimidating Solitude is when there is a big crowd there and we’ve missed them badly this year. I’ll be glad to see them back for the Crusaders match.”
McLaughlin is pleased to have a 10-day gap between fixtures but insists that they won’t be resting on their laurels and has called for players to maintain the standards they set in the win over Glentoran for the rest of the season.
“We’ve almost crammed a full season into a couple of months, which is crazy, especially for part-time players,” McLaughlin acknowledged.
“We’ll use them (days off) well to recover - we’re not going to sit in the house for 10 days. We’ll take a couple of days off to let the bodies recover and then we’ll get back to work next week.
“We’ve got to keep that standard of performance and that standard of energy that was involved in our play. That is the benchmark for what is left in the season and if we do that then we’ll have a chance of qualifying for Europe.”
The Reds’ boss wasn’t worried that a miss by Michael McCrudden early in the second half would come back and bite his side during Saturday’s victory and was always confident that they would make their pressure count.
“You always have the confidence,” he insisted.
“You know by the way we start off, usually it gives you an idea of how the game is going to pan out in the first five or 10 minutes when you see players who are sharp. Our boys definitely seemed to be sharp, and they were really fired up for the game.
“We created chances and broke when we got forward and broke in numbers.
“Missing the chance early in the second half, it was never a thought of that’s our only chance gone. We knew we had plenty more time to play and we knew the way that we started off that we would create more.”
McLaughlin was pleased the partnership between Michael McCrudden and Daire O’Connor and also singled out Rory Hale for his fantastic strike. “Daire and Michael worked well together,” McLaughlin felt.
“Michael has got Player of the Month in April, and he’s picked up a knock for the last three or four games. Nobody knows that he’s been playing with a wee bit of an injury.
“We took him out of the firing line last week and he came back in 100 per cent, and he shows his quality again along with Daire who was superb.
“Rory (Hale) has been superb from January. He has a real energy, a real drive, good leadership skills and he demands off people. He’s also got that goal threat in him, and I’m delighted to see that he capped off a good performance with a fantastic strike.”
Levi Ives’ return from a seven-month injury lay-off pleased McLaughlin but the win came at a cost with Garry Breen and Liam Bagnall departing through injuries, although the Reds’ boss is confident with the resources that can come in.
“He (Levi) looks as if he’s never been away,” McLaughlin commented.
“We threw him in at the deep end with no real game preparation. He trained last week and he declared himself fit to play so that’s how well he’s thought of at the club. As soon as he gave us the nod that he was ready to go, we fired him straight in and he didn’t let us down.
“You need players who are prepared to get hurt and put their body on the line and Levi did that for 70 minutes.
“That’s the nature of the game. They’re coming thick and fast and the intensity of the games are crazy.
“There isn’t a lot of recoveries between games and players are playing with weaknesses in their body and injuries that are threatening at times.
“We’ve had so many injuries throughout the year - it’s horrendous. I’ve never seen an injury record like it. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to have to add another two onto that and it’s two key players for us.
“But we trust our squad and we’ve got a lot of good young talent coming through and players coming off the bench that have done excellent for us when they came in.
“Anybody who misses out through injury or any other reason, we’ve full belief in the squad that whoever comes in will do a job for us.”