Defiant Ards boss Niall Currie insists his boys must quickly shrug off the disappointment of their JBE League Cup final defeat and prepare themselves for a serious assault on the Championship One title.
The homeless North Down outfit approached Saturday night’s gala occasion as massive underdogs and at no time during an entertaining 90 minutes did that tag come under threat.
In fact, had Gerard Lyttle’s Reds been a little more nifty in front of goal, things could have been a lot worse for Currie and his braves.
“The plan is to regroup and refocus on the league campaign,” said Currie.
“The league is the priority and it vital we keep adding points on the board.
“In many ways, the cup final was a bonus. Yes, we wanted to win it, but we were always going to be up against it.
“And, when you defend poorly at this level against a quality side, you get punished.
“Cliftonville opened us up quite a few times over the course of the game. It may have been different if we had taken our chances.
“We had two or three really good opportunities . . . you’ve got to take them.”
Ironically, Jordan Baker missed an absolute sitter before Marty Donnelly shot the Reds in front.
Currie added: “That just epitomises the difference between the teams.
“Cliftonville have a lot of clever players. They have great rotation and a lot of guys who are comfortable on the ball . . . their movement is fantastic.
“I thought we shot ourselves in to foot with the goals we gave away.
“We should have defended better and dealt with things better
“I still think we can play better. But I can’t be too critical, the boys gave their all . . . they threw their bodies on the line.
“The fact we got to the final was a credit to the players. In the end that wee bit off quality made the difference. The best team won.
“But we can hold our heads high representing the Championship in a cup final fantastically well.
“It was a great experience for the younger lads in our team.
“If they want to kick on and play at a higher level, then they’ve got to take a leaf out of Cliftonville’s books.”