CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin insists that he isn’t afraid to rotate his squad for tonight’s League Cup clash despite last Tuesday’s game with Bangor almost going wrong.
In the Co Antrim Shield, the Reds rattled off four goals in 13 minutes to complete a 4-2 comeback win over the Seasiders at Solitude.
The Reds travel to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Ards (Tuesday, 8pm kick-off) looking to progress to the quarter-final, in the midst of a ‘frantic’ schedule of fixtures.
McLaughlin isn’t prepared to flog his players with a continuous run of Saturday-Tuesday fixtures ahead and says their scare against Bangor won’t deter him from rotating further in the weeks ahead.
“It’s a frantic set of fixtures we’ve got,” he acknowledged.
“That’s why we’ve rotated our squad over the last couple of weeks for the midweek games and it’s important that we keep players fresh.
“It’s too many games to be flogging the same players Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday for four or five weeks. It’s important we keep fresh and keep rotating and we keep going because it is an intense schedule we’re in at minute.
“The game against Bangor definitely won’t put me off rotating."
McLaughlin is hoping his side can get back to winning ways after last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Ballymena United and he rued the chances his side missed in a dominant second period.
Kenneth Kane struck the game’s only goal at the Showgrounds after the half-hour mark to secure the spoils for the Sky Blues, despite Cliftonville laying siege to the United goal for much of the second period.
"The same thing at Bangor has happened today (Saturday). We started the game really sloppy and gave away soft chances, which we never do," added McLaughlin.
"It’s probably followed on a wee bit here, we started off sloppy.
“The players understand their strengths and they know what they’re good at. It’s important we keep rotating and we’re keeping the players fresh, and we’ll assess what we’ve got available because it was a tough game, a tough battle and a lot of work put in. it’s important we assess what we’ve got and go again.
“It’s unfortunate when any good run comes to an end and ours came to an end. It could have come to an end against any team in this division because everyone is good enough to beat anybody on their day.
"Ballymena were very good in the first half, I thought we were superb in the second half – we created five or six golden opportunities and we just didn’t have enough in us and quality in the final third to take any of them.
“I think if we had have equalised, we could have won it, so I’m really disappointed and frustrated at that. Losing the unbeaten run is not the end of the world. It’s inevitable you’re going to lose at some stage against somebody because the league is so competitive, but we are just so disappointed in the manner of how we lost the game.
“Having dominated the second half and the chances throughout the game. It happens, sometimes those chances go in and you win comfortably and sometimes you get frustrated, and you’re beat by a sloppy goal at the other end of the pitch. That seemed to be the day for it."
He continued: "We’ll go again and try and start another run and bounce back as quick as we can because it is an unforgiving and uncompromising league at times. There is nobody going to hang about and wait for us to pick ourselves up again.
"We’ve got so much quality and numbers in there that are fit and raring to go. I’m sure we’ll get back to business."
The Reds boss is adamant that they won’t feel sorry for themselves after the defeat and stressed how tough the league is.
“We weren’t roaring the shouting from the rooftops whenever we were winning games and we definitely aren’t going to go hiding under the blankets after one defeat,” said McLaughlin.
“It’s a long season, there’s a lot of competition in the division, it’s a tough, tough league - you see with results week in week out.
"You see results going ways you wouldn’t have thought before the game started and that’s what we’ve got to prepare for.
"It’s a tough division, you don’t get too high when you win games, and you don’t get too low when you lose them."