CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin is adamant that his players didn’t take Dungannon Swifts lightly in their Irish Cup quarter-final exit ahead of the sides doing battle again on Saturday.
The Swifts travel to Solitude (3pm kick-off) hoping that lightning can strike twice, and they will leave the North Belfast venue with a second win in the space of two weeks.
The Reds responded from that set-back against the Swifts with a battling point in Monday’s North Belfast derby with Crusaders and McLaughlin has called for a similar performance against Dean Shiels struggling Swifts.
“We all understand the importance of beating Dungannon on Saturday because we got burnt by them the previous Saturday,” he admitted.
“We don’t need to remind the players of that. We didn’t take them lightly, we just didn’t play well on the day. Dungannon did and we didn’t and that was it as simple as that.
“We prepared really well, and we prepared as normal. We did our homework on them, and we didn’t do anything different than we would do for Crusaders, Linfield, Larne, or anybody else.
“It was just we didn’t perform on the day, so it’s important that we get back to playing like we did on Monday.
“I thought we were excellent, working as well as we did on Monday will hopefully be enough to get us the result against Dungannon. Every Saturday now is going to be exciting for the fans, exciting for the neutrals because there will be twists and turns yet to come.”
📊 How things stand...#DanskeBankPrem pic.twitter.com/NZXGygJyW8— NI Football League (@OfficialNIFL) March 15, 2023
Although the Reds missed the chance to move within four-points of Larne after their derby draw, McLaughlin remained upbeat and believes there are still plenty of twists and turns with 21 points will up for grabs.
“We know how important a win would have been to take it down to four points, it would have been a lot better reading,” he acknowledged.
“Six is going to be really difficult but we’re still there fighting. With 21 points to play for, you never know what could happen. We saw so many points dropped after the split last year.
“I’m sure there will be even more this year because looking at the top six, there is nothing between the sides at all. It is very, very competitive and very, very evened up when teams go to battle.
“Anything can happen between now and the end of the season. There is 21 points to play for and we’ll give it our best shot and hopefully Larne can drop points along the way.
“They’re in a really strong position and I don’t know how many teams can take points off them but once it gets to the split, you never know.”
Ryan Curran made his first competitive start since December 6 and netted two goals at Seaview and McLaughlin was full of praise for the 29-year-old, who has struggled with a groin injury since the tail end of last season.
“He has had a horrid time over the last couple of months with a nasty injury in his groin,” McLaughlin revealed.
“He can’t seem to shake it off at all, he’s had it from the tail end of last year and we thought we had it sorted in the summer, but it’s obviously come back since November. We’ve missed him since November.
“He’s playing through the pain, and it was well worth it. He is a class act and we saw how good he was in the game throughout.
“He scored two brilliant goals for us, the penalty in a high-pressure situation - scores it and the goal in the first half.
“We’ve missed him, and the boys have done brilliantly without him up until now. It’s good to see him back because he showed his class and showed his worth for the team with two goals’”
The Reds boss was also keen to leap to the defence of Joe Gormley after spurning a late opportunity to seal all three points at Seaview and insists that it proves his talisman is human.
“It just proves that he is human,” insists McLaughlin.
“Joe is a phenomenom. Nobody will compare to Joe Gormley’s goal scoring record to any man because he is so good and so clinical.
“I’m sure on another day, Joe would put that away. It was a great ball in and maybe he takes his eye off the ball for a split second.
“He will score plenty of goals for us between now and the end of the season and he will score a lot of important goals for us for the next couple of years.
“It was just a minor blip for him. I’m sure he is disappointed, but there is no criticism of Joe at all.”