CLIFTONVILLE manager Paddy McLaughlin believes his side will look forward to taking on Linfield on Friday evening.
The Reds make the trip to Windsor Park (7.45pm kick-off, live on BBC) hoping to maintain their impressive start to the season against a Linfield side who are coming into the fixture off the back of a comfortable win over Big Two rivals Glentoran, having drawn their previous two games.
McLaughlin expects Linfield will be eager to get a winning run together and is adamant that his side’s preparations and mindset won’t be any different to how they’ve prepared for games over recent weeks.
“They’ll look forward to it surely,” believes McLaughlin.
“It’s a good place to go and play. It’s a great surface and it suits our style of play. Linfield are probably a bit frustrated with their start and I’m sure they’re nowhere near top form yet.
“They’ll want to get their season up and running as much as we’ll want to continue our form, so it’s set up for a great game. But we don’t look forward to Linfield any more than we’ve looked forward to Warrenpoint or Dungannon.
“They’re the games that take on their own significance and its own importance at times. We don’t look forward to it any differently or prepare for it any differently to what we’ve done up until now.
“All games in the Irish League are tough; it shows that every week with results and you see how tight the league is and how the results can go different ways at times - they regularly do.
“There will be no different to our preparation or mindset going into the game. We’ll go there to try and win and be prepared for a tough game, which I’m sure it will be.”
McLaughlin insists he had the trust that his side would make the breakthrough in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Warrenpoint Town despite goalkeeper Conor Mitchell frustrating them on a number of occasions.
“When you’re on top and you have the players that you have and the forward-thinking players and strikers that you have, you always trust them, expect and believe that if they get a chance they’ll score,” he reflected.
“The ’keeper has pulled off a couple of great saves so we were just hoping that every time one went a begging, the next one would go in.
“When it came, we were definitely delighted and relieved, but we always had faith in our strikers and forward play because we’ve been excellent up until now and they produced again, even from a set-piece.
“It was one of our strikers getting on the end of a great ball in. I’m happy enough with the three points and I’m really delighted with the clean sheet as well.”
The Reds’ boss was happy to see another side to their victory in winning despite not being at their best and admits their only source of frustration came from their performance level.
“I said that to the boys that it’s a good thing to have in their game. If you have to play well all the time to win a game, you’re under pressure to play well,” McLaughlin insists.
“If you can win games without playing well it’s another string to the bow as they say. We’re delighted that we were nowhere near our best and we were still able to manage to navigate our way through the game and get the win from a set-piece, which is not something we’re known to score too many from.
“It’s a good win and a real hard fought, gritty performance. It’s a really good three points because last year we could have conceded or we wouldn’t have got that goal and we’d have dropped points and went out the door really frustrated.
“The only thing we were frustrated with is our performance level, but other than that it was a great three points and a clean sheet.”
Paul O’Neill was forced to sit out Saturday’s victory due to a reaction to a knee injury sustained in pre-season, but McLaughlin insists it only a precautionary measure and hopes the striker will be available for Friday’s evening’s trip.
“I don’t think it’s anything to be too worried about,” McLaughlin admitted.
“It’s just reaction to the operation. We have to remember that he only had surgery in his knee six or seven weeks ago. He’s been strong enough and fit enough to come back into action so early.
“There is always going to be a bit of a flare up in the injury every time he joins in at match pace or a full training session. It was only precautionary we sat him out.
“I don’t think it’s anything to be too worried about – it’s just a precaution.
“Hopefully with the rest today and letting the knee injury recover and help the wee bit of swelling in and around it go down, he’ll be good to go for training and hopefully he’ll be in the squad and available for Friday night’s game.”