CLIFTONVILLE manager Paddy McLaughlin believes his side need to be at their maximum if they are going to get a result against Glentoran.
The Sky Sports cameras roll into Solitude on Monday evening as the Reds take on third-place Glentoran (7.45pm kick-off).
Ryan Curran’s strike was enough to see McLaughlin’s side defeat the Glens in the corresponding fixture back in September and The Reds’ boss acknowledges another difficult task lies ahead.
“The Glens have proven over the course of the season, the same as ourselves, they’re a really good footballing side,” McLaughlin said.
“They’ve got some top talent right across their squad, so we have to be at our maximum to get a result.
“We’ve been superb here all year. We’d a bit of a blip against Crusaders and it was disappointing in our performance and result, but we responded well against Islandmagee and we’ll be raring to go come Monday night.
“It will be a tough game and tough ask, but we’ve done it before and I’m sure we’ll be full of confidence going into it and knowing we can do it again.”
⚽️ An occasion to relish under the Solitude lights. pic.twitter.com/Pl9KU0rps4— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) January 11, 2022
In the aftermath of Monday’s game, the Reds face a tricky away trip to Larne before entertaining top of the table Linfield in a schedule that shows no sign of letting up.
McLaughlin admits it is a tough schedule but has called on the fans backing in the crucial run ahead.
“It’s a tough schedule with big games and I’ve said to the players they’ve made them big games because we’re doing so well now - every game we play is a big game,” he admits.
“They’ve created this and it’s up to them now to keep performing and keep doing the business. They’ve been superb right throughout and the fans have been brilliant with us right throughout the year.
“We need another big push again over the next couple of weeks and months because we’ve created this and the club, the fans and the players have created these big games and it’s up to us now to go and keep performing.”
The Reds' boss was pleased that his side kept their discipline in their 5-0 Irish Cup victory over Islandmagee after the game threatened to boil over with a few tackles late-on and was delighted that the players came through unscathed.
“That’s part of the game, a wee bit of frustration from one or two of their point of view but that’s understandable,” he reflected.
“It’s tough to come here when you’re playing a lot of the game without the ball so you can get a wee bit of frustration but there was no harm done. It’s part of the game and our boys were well disciplined.
“Our disciplinary record this year I think is the best in the league so far this season. It was tested a wee bit with a couple of tackles but fair play to our boys, they kept their cool and they kept playing their football and they came out of here unscathed.”
Youngsters Michael Morgan and Sean Moore were afforded game time from the bench in their first outing since the County Antrim Shield comeback win over Bangor in which the duo were hooked after the under-par hosts went 2-0 down.
McLaughlin was impressed with what he saw from both players and Odhran Casey - who is slightly more experienced - but falls into the youth bracket.
“I said it at the time you’ll see those boys back and you’ll see them often and today I thought the two of them did really well,” McLaughlin felt.
“Michael had a couple of chances and looked lively and sharp. I thought Sean Moore was very good - he liked to get forward and he gave us a bit of energy down the left-hand side, and he knows how to look after himself as well.
“Fair play to him and I like that about young players: they know when they come in with the big boys. They have to be prepared to look after themselves and he showed that so fair play to both of them, I thought they did well.
“Young Casey as well, he is only a young boy himself and people think because he’s been here and around the first team for a couple of seasons now that he’s an old man. He’s not, he’s still a young boy and I thought the three of them did really well when they came in.”
Midfielder Cricky Gallagher also returned from a four-week layoff and McLaughlin paid tribute to his medical staff for their hard work over a challenging period.
“There’s dynamite in that foot of his and that’s why we’re glad to get him back on the pitch,” he said.
“Having Cricky back is a major boost at this stage of the season. At the turn of the year we always said to stay in touch with the leading pack and having almost a full squad of players available and raring to go, so it’s a brilliant boost to see Cricky coming back.
“He’s a key player for us and he’s one of the top players in the division and it’s a major boost for us now. Like I say, we’re at the turn of the year and we’re at the business time of the season now from here on in.
“To have a full squad fit and raring to go, you’ve got to give the medical staff all the credit in the world because they’ve been working so many hours looking after these boys whenever they do pick up knocks and injuries. Hopefully we’ll have Rory Hale back too and that will be us back to full strength.”