Gerard Lyttle was delighted to see Cliftonville bounce back from their derby day horrors with a confident victory over Carrick Rangers.
It may have taken a 79th minute intervention from substitute Davy McDaid to earn the points but, in truth, the Reds would have been out of sight much earlier but for the heroics of Rangers keeper Brian Neeson.
Lyttle had asked his players to produce the same performance that had shot them into a 3-0 lead against Crusaders seven days earlier – and, thankfully for him, they were able to make it last 90 minutes this time.
“Stephen Baxter complimented us on our performance and my compliment back to him is that we need to follow Crusaders’ example when it comes to winning mentality,” he said.
“They have that in abundance and showed it in the way they came back from 3-0 down. Yes, we have issues with how sloppy their goals were from our point of view – plus questions of offside and fouls on the keeper – but you have to credit them for what they did.
“We played well up to a point and, as a group, we spoke about the importance of taking the positives with us into the Carrick game.” “I feel we did that and, strange as it might be to say when Carrick have hit the woodwork three times, I always thought we were comfortable.
“We could have done with a second goal just to make sure because, at 0-0 and 1-0, there’s always a chance a mistake or a bit of bad luck can cost you but we did very well from the start and our performance was a joy to watch.”
Though indebted to Neeson for a sensational display, Rangers were not without opportunities of their own as caretaker manager Glenn Taggart cursed his side’s misfortune after seeing Adam Salley hit the bar ahead of Martin Murray and Nathan Hanley striking the post, with home stopper Peter Burke’s fingertip save preventing Gareth McKeown from notching an eye-catching injury-time leveller.
“Brian (Neeson) has made a number of good saves but we’ve gone close ourselves a few times and we just need one of those chances to go in for us,” said Taggart.
“They say winning’s a habit but losing can be as well. It might take an own goal, a deflection, a fluky penalty or something like that – but I feel if we can just get even a draw from somewhere, that will stop the rot and allow us to try and build something.”