Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville are on fire again as title defence hots up

By Conor McLaughlin

Jaime McGovern says the standard of Cliftonville's performances on the training pitch this week demonstrate that they've put the disappointment of last Saturday behind them.

Though they still boast the last remaining unbeaten record in the Danske Bank Premiership, the Reds were literally one second away from surrendering that statistic when Joe Gormley converted a penalty rebound with the final touch of the weekend's draw with Warrenpoint Town.

Anger and frustration were, rather than relief, the over-riding emotions on the journey home from Milltown and McGovern admits he wasn't sure what to expect when he reported for training on Tuesday night.

"None of us can put our fingers on the reason behind the way we played down at Warrenpoint, we just know it wasn't anywhere near good enough," he explains.

"We had just come off the back of playing Linfield, where we had performed very well and done everything but score, and maybe we just expected that to naturally continue.

"I know personally speaking it was my first time down there and it would have been the same for a lot of the other boys, but I don't know if we went out onto the pitch just expecting to get the result.

"Nothing really came together for us and, in the end, we were lucky to get an equaliser as late as we did and you never know how important that point could prove to be come the end of the season.

"That's the positive we can take out of it but, to be honest, I was nearly dreading going to training because I wasn't sure what the mood would be like but I can truthfully say I think it's the best session we've had all season – the tempo was good, the quality high and everybody really enjoyed how it went.

"I mean, there was no crisis meeting or anything like that because we've been in pretty good shape but we've all spoken about how we can't play like we did down at Warrenpoint again."

Next up for the Reds is Saturday's home clash against second-from-bottom Coleraine who, despite their lowly standing in the table, have pulled off more than one Solitude shock in recent times and McGovern expects a typically stern test.

"Coleraine are a side who won't let us away with anything unless we're at our best," he explains.

"It's going to be a difficult game but it's one that we want to show we've learned lessons in.

"We started slowly and sluggishly against Warrenpoint and you can't afford to do that in any match, so it goes without saying that we're looking for all-round improvement this weekend."

Having clocked up his 100th Cliftonville appearance last time out, McGovern reveals he has something of a score to settle as he embarks upon his second century of outings with the champions.

"Every week I pick up the programme and it says I've never scored for the club and the fans are always reminding me as well," he says.

"I nearly got one in the last minute against Linfield last week but I only had the shot because nothing else seemed on and I panicked. I didn't catch it as well as I would have liked but I'm told it wasn't too far away from sneaking in.

"It would be nice to get myself a goal some day but as long as we're keeping clean sheets, I'll leave the scoring to others."

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