Following a week of introductions, media pleasantries and interviews, new Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin was delighted to finally get down to business with a 1-0 victory over Newry City at Solitude.
Conor McMenamin’s early finish at the end of an eye-catching move looked to have set the tone for a Reds procession but the visitors displayed the tenacity which has come to typify their character, ensuring Cliftonville were made to battle all the way for both their win and a first clean sheet in more than three months.
“As an ex-centre half myself, I know all about the importance of defending and keeping clean sheets so I’m delighted with that and the players are too,” said McLaughlin.
“I thought our defenders were very good. They did their jobs well and, along with the keeper, the back four will be very happy to have kept Newry out and that will be a big lift to their confidence.
“We just wanted any kind of a win to get us started and we’re very happy with 1-0. It would have been nice to have got an extra goal or two just so we could enjoy ourselves a bit more, but I think we restricted Newry pretty well and we can have no complaints about a win and a clean sheet, that’s the kind of start we would have wanted.”
Newry will be pleased to finally see the back of McLaughlin this season having suffered three defeats to his Institute side prior to Saturday’s setback, but the new Cliftonville chief – who will run the rule over his squad further when they host Longford Town in a friendly next Saturday – warned his players against taking anything for granted against the relegation battlers.
“That’s the fourth time I’ve faced Newry this season and I told the players before the game and at half-time that Newry don’t roll over for anyone,” he added.
“They battle for everything and work you hard, so we were prepared for that and I was very pleased with how we played.”
Opposite number Darren Mullen was left reflecting on the same old story for Newry.
Another spirited display peppered with bursts of inspiration failed to yield a goal that would have edged them back into the contest – but the City supremo refuses to be downhearted.
“The players are disappointed to have lost the game and that’s the way it should be, but they know we have positives to take from it,” he explained.
“We didn’t want this to be a carnival for Paddy coming into his first game for Cliftonville but, when we went 1-0 down in the first few minutes, you’re stood there fearing what it could turn into.
“Our reaction to falling behind was good, but we just weren’t able to do enough in front of goal. It feels like I’m saying the same things every week, but I also make sure the players know to keep doing what they’re doing because I’m confident we can get enough points on the board that way.”
Cliftonville: Brush, Breen, Grace, Harney, C. Curran, R. Donnelly, Harkin, McConnell, Gormley, McMenamin, Gorman.
Subs: Neeson, McGovern, R. Curran, Garrett, Catney, Lavery, A. Donnelly.
Newry City: Maguire, Mooney, King, Noonan, Boyle, Carville, McCabe, S. Hughes, Teggart, Pender, Healy.
Subs Hunter, Walker, Moody, Lavery, Mullan, Pablo Cavalcante, Durnin.
Referee: Keith Kennedy