Gerard Lyttle believes the secret to success is treating every opponent with the same level of respect.
The Cliftonville boss was delighted his men followed up victories over Linfield and Glentoran by accounting for Ballinamallard United at Solitude on Saturday and hailed the attitude of a team who have helped him reach 10 Premiership games undefeated as manager.
“We prepare for every match the same way no matter who we’re playing,” said Lyttle.
“You see it all the time, teams getting big results in certain matches and then not following it up in their next game.
“Everybody says there’s no easy games in this league and that’s completely true, so you have to treat every opponent the same way.
“In the changing room before the match, we spoke about making sure we built on recent results.
“We were coming off the back of a great win against Linfield at Windsor and then a big Cup win over Glentoran in midweek. You hear certain sides being talked about as lesser teams, but you could never say that about Ballinamallard. These are the matches that are most difficult but full credit to the players because they went about things exactly as we wanted them to.
“We started well, couldn’t get our goal and were maybe knocked off our stride a wee bit when Ballinamallard got their penalty but we stayed patient and didn’t panic.
“That’s something we’ve had to do a lot of late, just keep our cool, keep picking our passes and work for the openings to come along.
“Ballinamallard were taken all the way to penalties by Ards in their game on Wednesday night, so we wanted to take advantage of whatever tiredness they might have had by getting in their faces early, working them hard and pressing high up the park. We did that and, once we got the opening goal – as lucky as it was – we just kicked on from there.”
The visitors passed up a glorious opportunity to change the course of proceedings when Liam Martin’s penalty box tumble under a Jaimie McGovern challenge earned a 14th minute spot-kick, only for Reds keeper Conor Devlin to save Martin’s attempt.
Nine minutes after the interval, Colm McLaughlin deflected a Chris Curran strike into his own net and it wasn’t long before Cliftonville doubled their advantage; Davy McDaid coolly picking his spot after being teed up by Tomas Cosgrove.
McDaid registered his second of the afternoon on 67 minutes before James McKenna banked a consolation for the Mallards with a close-range header.
Visiting boss Whitey Anderson had no complaints about the result but, having suffered penalty heartache in their midweek JBE League Cup exit to Ards, was once again left bemoaning his side’s misfortune from 12 yards.
“I think if we score the penalty, it changes the game and we wouldn’t have lost it,” he said.
“These are the differences between the top four teams and the rest – they don’t miss those chances and then end up regretting them.
“Outside of that, I was very pleased with how we played and I’m proud of my players. We’ve covered some amount of miles over the last few days but we came here, worked very hard and made life very difficult for a good Cliftonville team.
“We’re just going through a wee blip at the moment but I have faith in my players, they’ve already shown how good they are this season and I’ve no doubt they’ll get back to that level again.”