Cliftonville defender Marc Smyth admits his team’s dramatic WASP Solutions League Cup victory over Ballymena United at Windsor Park must be a ‘watershed’ for the remainder of the season.
Tommy Breslin’s Reds endured every emotion in the book. The ecstasy after Joe ‘The Goal’ Gormley bagged a glorious first half double soon turned to agony following the sensational arrival of David Cushley, who had the sides level 13 minutes after his introduction at the interval.
But Smyth and his team mates then demonstrated the character that helped them win this trophy for the past two years. When Marty Donnelly rammed in the late winner, the international stadium, which is under huge re-construction, was rocking to the rafters. It was incredible stuff.
Smyth believes the victory could ignite the Reds for the rest off the season.
“We are victims of our own success in many ways,” he said. “We have created great expectation by winning trophies over the last few years.
“It’s strange, any other club in this country would be over the moon with the trophies we’ve won this season already and there are still a few more to be won.
“But we are still a bit critical of ourselves. That needs to stop. We are now going into a new era. This a different team, a different set of players, with perhaps six or seven new faces.
“We are going through a transition period, but the thing is, we are still winning trophies, which is not a bad thing. This victory can be a platform for the rest of the season.
“Realistically, the league is in Crusaders hands. All we can do is win our games. If they don’t win it in their position, they are in trouble. They’ll probably never win it.
“They’ve done brilliantly to get were they are. They have been the best team so far. But we won’t give up. No matter what happens, we’ll still have a big say in who wins the title.
“We’ll take one game at a time, with Glentoran next up. Yes, we are under pressure, but If we can get the gap down to six points come the split, we’ll still fancy ourselves.
“This cup win proves we know what it takes to win things.”
Smyth admitted a certain degree of naivety crept into his team’s performance, once Cushley shot United back into the game.
“The first half was as good as we’ve played for some time,” added Smyth. “We looked dangerous every time we went forward. We were cutting them open with ease.
“The second half probably summed up whey we haven’t been winning league games in recent weeks. There was a bit of naivety in our defending. We were not doing the right things as a team.
“Individual mistakes emanates from not winning games. Once the opposition gets back into it we start to question ourselves. It’s a natural thing. If I’m being totally honest, I never thought Ballymena would win the game.”