Tommy Breslin was pleased with Cliftonville’s application as the champions overcame a resolute Ballinamallard United at Solitude on Saturday.
The visitors produced a brave performance which arguably merited a point at the very least, but which ultimately saw them make the long journey home with nothing to show for their efforts after Martin Donnelly plundered the contest’s only goal.
“We rode our luck at times but I don’t think we played too badly,” said Breslin.
“Box-to-box, we did quite well and there was some good football out of us but it was just the final pass which was letting us down at times and I suppose you have to give Ballinamallard credit for that.
“They came here and played very well, so we were made to work hard for the win. You have to grind things out sometimes and victories like that can be crucial in terms of maintaining momentum.”
Marc Smyth went close to breaking the deadlock with just four minutes on the clock but was unable to steer Donnelly’s corner delivery on target.
The Mallards should have gone ahead shortly afterwards when Jason McCartney’s jinking run saw him slip Andy Crawford through on goal and, after he had touched the ball beyond goalkeeper Conor Devlin, Duwayne McManus should have done much better than to strike against the crossbar.
Crawford was next to be denied by the woodwork when his vicious left-footed drive was turned against the base of the post by Devlin while.
At the other end, Alvin Rouse was forced to turn a Martin Murray attempt over the top before the former Glentoran starlet fizzed a dangerous ball across the face of goal that Liam Boyce was inches away from connecting with.
The stalemate was broken five minutes after the interval when Boyce’s cross from the left picked out George McMullan, whose underhit shot came back off the upright and looked set to be dealt with by United skipper Mark Stafford.
However, McMullan managed to get his head to the attempted clearance and Donnelly pounced to slam home his third goal in as many outings.
McManus, McCartney and Steve Feeney all went close to registering an equaliser for the visitors, whose boss Whitey Anderson was understandably disappointed to have emerged potless.
“I’m gutted for the players,” he said.
“In terms of effort, desire and commitment, I couldn’t have asked any more of them and they played some very good football as well.
“Nobody could accuse us of coming here and parking the bus. We had a real go and we were just unlucky at times, hitting the post twice and creating a few other chances as well.
“If we had someone who could put the ball in the net, it would have made such a difference in so many of our games.”