PADDY McLaughlin says his side is not contemplating the implications of Dungannon’s thumping last weekend ahead of the sides’ clash at the weekend.
The Reds head to Stangmore Park to take on Dungannon Swifts (3pm kick-off) looking to continue their unbeaten start and cement their place at the league summit.
Dean Shiels’ Swifts suffered a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Coleraine at Stangmore last Saturday, but McLaughlin isn’t looking too far into the result and predicts a tough game will lie in store for his side.
“No matter what happened last Saturday, we’re not contemplating that in any way at all,” admits McLaughlin.
“We know they’re a good footballing side. Dean has done a fantastic job with a lot of young players. It was tough last year and I’m sure it will be tough this year for any team that goes there, and we don’t expect anything other than a tough game.
“It will be a good footballing game with two sides that like to build on their play. Hopefully it’s entertaining but it’s a game we feel we can win if we can keep our form and keep our momentum going.
“It’s important we keep the wheels turning in the right direction and if we do that, hopefully we can go away with another three points.”
🎟 Cliftonville return to Danske Bank Premiership action this weekend and supporters are reminded that tickets for Saturday's tie with Dungannon Swifts are available to buy online. pic.twitter.com/7hLzG3Gzbg— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) September 15, 2021
McLaughlin insisted the most important thing on Tuesday night was progressing to the next round of the League Cup and was pleased with the added bonus of having Paul O’Neill fit and available for selection again.
“It was all about getting through to the next round - that’s the most important thing,” McLaughlin reflected.
“I’m delighted with the clean sheet; I know we’ve dominated the ball throughout the game and created numerous chances, but they’ve defended really well and the goalkeeper has pulled off a couple of good saves.
“You’ve got to give them all the credit in the world. They kept their shape really well and worked hard so fair play to them. They put in a good performance themselves, but I think our dominance over the game fully deserved the win and we’re delighted to be in the next round.
“Paul O’Neill getting back on the pitch was important for us - he’s a key player and an up-and-coming star in the Irish League. Having him back from injury now and back in the squad is important for us.
“We need all our players available; we haven’t got the biggest squad in the league, so we need everybody available and it was great to see Paul back on the pitch.”
McLaughlin is pleased to see others chip in with goals and help to lift the burden off Joe Gormley and hopes it will continue in the coming weeks.
“Levi (Ives) has been superb this season already,” he acknowledged.
“He’s hit top form straight away and long may it continue. ‘Currany’ (Ryan Curran) scored again and it was his second goal of the season. It’s good to see people chipping in with goals because for too long we have been relying on Joe and he has carried a lot of the burden.
“It’s important that the likes of Currany and Daniel (Kearns), who scored on Saturday, and Levi and Harney continue to chip in with goals. It’s important we keep doing it.”
The Reds’ boss was able to make eight changes on Tuesday evening, including handing debuts to Colin Coates and Luke McNicholas and although admitting his squad isn’t the biggest, he is delighted the quality.
“We haven’t got the biggest numbers, but what we have is full of quality, ”insists McLaughlin.
“We’ve a first team panel of 20 players and any of them expect to play because they know they’re good enough to play on any given Saturday. It’s important we keep most of them as fit as possible because you see what can happen.
“In the blink of an eye we’ve lost Rory Hale and one or two other knocks can come at any time in the season. When we do rotate and change, we’re more than capable of filling in like for like.
“It’s important we keep that quality high and like I say, the numbers aren’t the biggest but the quality is definitely in a high scale throughout our squad and when we do make eight changes it doesn’t dilute down what we do or what we’re about.”
He continued: “Coatesy was superb. He does what he does best: he dominated in the air, he controlled his back line really well throughout the match and Luke Turner was excellent as well. They were all in dominant form.
“It’s important we don’t get frustrated when teams come and sit-in against us - we need to keep moving the ball.
“In terms of Luke and Coatesy, I thought they were excellent right throughout the match.
“Our ’keeper as well (Luke McNicholas) - he didn’t really have a lot to do but you see how good he is with his feet whenever he is called into it. We’re motoring along well and it’s important we take that into Saturday’s game.”