Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville striving to restore form of old: Jaimie McGovern

By Graham Luney

Jaimie McGovern has reassured Cliftonville fans that the players and management will not accept any slipping standards at Solitude.

The Reds have got their hands on the Charity Shield, County Antrim Shield and Wasp Solutions League Cup this season but they face an uphill fight in the title race.

Trailing leaders Crusaders by 12 points having played a game less, they will need the Crues, Linfield and Portadown to stumble for them to have any chance of celebrating three consecutive title triumphs.

In many ways, their League Cup final win over Ballymena United was a microcosm of Cliftonville's season. Slick passing movement and devastating attacks mixed in with poor decision making and individual errors.

It's a cocktail that can leave you tasting knockout success but the consistency required to win championships is missing.

Ahead of today's home clash with his former employers Glentoran, defender McGovern has insisted the Reds players know the standards they have to maintain.

"We have set the standards by winning the league two years in a row and a third or fourth place finish is not good enough," said McGovern.

"We want to be challenging for titles. We have set the standard and the players and management are determined to maintain those standards. The players have to step up to the challenge and keep delivering on the pitch.

"Maybe 12 points, even with a game in hand, is a bridge too far, a massive gap to make up but each player in this squad will not give up, it's not in our nature.

"We can't look further than our next challenge which is the Glens and we have got to be driven on by the fear of not qualifying for European football, which would be a huge knock back for us."

McGovern's League Cup celebrations were tinged with a little sadness as it was his error which led to David Cushley's second goal but a few consoling words from his father afterwards helped ease the pain.

He added: "My dad is my biggest fan and biggest critic and he said to me, 'You did make a mistake but the pleasing thing was you didn't let your head drop. You kept wanting the ball and didn't allow one mistake to affect the rest of your performance'.

"I dwelled on the ball for too long and should have put it out for a corner but it was in my mind that we had previously conceded from a corner.

"But we should have been out of sight in the game. The first half was the Reds of old, we were winning our individual battles and playing nice football on the deck. After the break, Jay (Donnelly) missed his big chance and then the individual errors returned.

"We showed huge character to come back."

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