CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin is relishing returning to league action at Solitude this weekend.
The Reds host Newry City (3pm kick-off) in their first home game in the league since the end of August.
In the intervening period, the Solitude side have clocked up two league wins on the road in mid-Ulster and returned to base at the weekend in their Scottish Challenge Cup defeat to Queens Park.
McLaughlin is hoping they can make the most of home advantage and continue to keep pace with the early pacesetters at the summit.
“It will be good to get back to league action- especially at home,” he admits.
“Newry have had a wee bit of a mixed bag start to the season. They’ve been excellent in some of the games and I’m sure they were disappointed at losing to Coleraine on Friday night after holding them out until half time.
“They’d have thought they could have pushed on and maybe taken something from the game, so they have got their danger men and threats.
“It will be nice to get back on home soil, we’ve had a couple of games away from home and it will be nice to get back in front of our home fans.
“They make it a hostile and intimidating game in all the games. it will be good to hopefully get back up and running.
“Our form in the league has been excellent, five wins out of the last five games and it’s important that we try to keep allocating them points as much as we can, especially early in the season and stay with the early pacesetters.
“It is going to be really competitive in the Irish league this year; like it always is and hopefully we can get back to winning ways at the weekend.”
The Reds’ boss admits his side wanted to make progress in the Challenge Cup following their weekend exit, but acknowledged that their priority will always focus on domestic issues first and foremost.
⏳ We're exactly 4️⃣8️⃣ hours from kick-off here at Solitude. pic.twitter.com/GxpkKvUPIk— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) September 29, 2022
“We fielded a strong side and made a couple of changes,” he reflected.
“We’d players that needed game time that were coming back from injuries, and it was important that we got boys back on the pitch.
“We treated it just the same as any other game, there’s no point in talking it down now that we’ve lost the tie.
“But there is priorities elsewhere, I’m sure David Healy will be thinking the same.
“Domestically is your bread and butter and that’s what’s most important to us.
“We entered the competition to try and win it and unfortunately, we fell at the first hurdle.
“It was a tough draw, a really, really tough draw and it’s a familiar theme with Cliftonville and cup draws.
“We got the toughest draw that we could have possibly got maybe, a team flying high in the Championship and a full-time outfit, but I think we matched them well throughout.”
McLaughlin was further pleased that Colin Coates and Jonny Addis were on the scoresheet and hopes it is a trend that will continue going forward.
“I thought we carried a good threat at set-pieces” McLaughlin felt.
“We were good at them; our delivery was excellent and the two boys were getting on the end of things and causing havoc in the Queens Park defence for set-pieces. It’s important that we do that.
“Relying on your strikers all the time and depending on them to score the goals when they are having an off day, or they’re being well marshalled in any game. It means that you’re really limited in how you’re going to score.
“It’s important that we do score from corners and set-pieces and fair play to our two centre-halves.
“Hopefully we can score another few as the season goes on. It’s good to see somebody else score rather than Ronan, Joe or Ryan Curran.”