Leaders Cliftonville on four-game road run with confidence off perfect home form
November’s fixture list will test the status of Cliftonville as Premiership top dogs - with Warrenpoint today marking the first of four consecutive road trips for the league leaders.
Holding a five-point advantage at the head of the senior standings thanks to a 29-strong tally from 12 games to date, the Reds can look forward to meeting the three other sides in the top four before next lining out at Solitude in early December.
But before away dates at Linfield, Coleraine and Larne is a meeting of top v bottom in the clash at Warrenpoint to kick off that tough sequence.
A perfect record at home has provided a foundation for Cliftonville’s impressive start to the Irish League season.
Paddy McLaughlin’s men may not be able to call on home advantage now for the next few weeks but the Cliftonville manager is counting on increased confidence off such a string of strong results as central to the bid to maintain momentum.
“In the midweek cup tie at Portadown we showed how we could win without playing that well and I think that’s a brilliant characteristic to have in any squad,” said McLaughlin. “The players brought in have made a difference and it is a group growing and learning together.
“Experience across time together and from learning harsh lessons, especially from the past when too often conceding goals out of nothing, has certainly helped us as a collective this season.
“Signings helped to raise the bar and confidence is high across the group because of everything.
“We are still operating with four or five out but anyone coming in has helped to protect the quality.
“When working with a senior squad of 18 to 20 players, to be able to rotate successfully is massive.
“We’ve had midweek and weekend fixtures across the season due to the cup and league commitments and even against Portadown it ended up going into extra-time.
“So it is a credit to those players called on that we’ve been able to keep up such strong results.
“Given the quality of this league from top to bottom you will always get bumps across any campaign.
“So it is important you can deal with any setbacks in the right way and our run of performances and results helps protect you when faced with disappointments.”
McLaughlin is aware the gap in points off the pitch will not be reflected on it at Milltown this weekend.
“We’ve had two draws and a defeat away from home, so it is still a pretty good record and we just want to keep on building,” said McLaughlin. “We can guarantee a tough physical test at Warrenpoint and know we must be prepared for the battle.
“But as recently as on Tuesday in Portadown the players were able to show that welcome ability to dig in and produce even if not at maximum level.
“Warrenpoint is a really difficult place to go - and we will certainly need the continued superb backing of our supporters.
“The fans have been great, home and away.”
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