Belfast Telegraph

Lyttle wants his Reds to show their mettle after Boxing Day nightmare

By Conor McLaughlin

Gerard Lyttle has challenged his Cliftonville players to prove they have the mental strength to recover from their derby day demolition by Crusaders.

The Reds' six-game winning streak was brought to a shuddering halt as the champions ran riot at Solitude on Boxing Day, with the 4-0 scoreline ultimately flattering the hosts, who crumbled in the aftermath of Stephen Garrett's missed penalty early in the second half.

Though he acknowledged that his squad had been badly hit with a virus in the build-up to the game - with just 10 players reporting to training at one point - Lyttle was frustrated by Cliftonville's reaction when things didn't go their way during the game.

"The most disappointing thing was that, after missing the penalty, heads went down and that's what we spoke about most," he said.

"Winners like Crusaders, Dundalk and the best teams in each country get their chests out and don't feel sorry for themselves.

"It's been well documented the changing room we had at the start of the season wasn't right and needed hanged.

"We had to find leaders and this has to be a reality check. We knew this would happen at some stage but we didn't want it to happen in such a massive game.

"We didn't deserve to win, though. We didn't play anywhere near the way we can. Our passing was sloppy and our work-rate wasn't good enough."

Garrett's penalty miss was the FOURTH time Cliftonville have failed to score from the spot this season, while Jay Donnelly's late red card only served to put the seal on the Solitude chief's miserable afternoon.

"We've missed four penalties which is ridiculous and now we've had a few sendings off in quick succession," he added.

"We're down another player now which isn't what we needed at all, whether or not the likes of Daniel Hughes deserved to be sent off against Carrick, which I think most people will see he didn't."

Lyttle also revealed that, far from throwing teacups, he used his post-match discussion with the players to instantly begin focusing minds on Friday's trip to face Glenavon

"I wasn't too hard on them because, preparation-wise, it has been really, really bad for us this week," he said.

"We've had a bug that's ripped right through the changing room. There were 10 training during the week.

"I'm not using it as an excuse in any way. And, let's be honest, after the second goal they absolutely battered us.

"But we have to dust ourselves down and not feel sorry for ourselves. Hopefully the boys will reflect on how the game and week went.

"It is disappointing on Boxing Day against your biggest rivals but it could have been five or six.

"I think if Stevie scores the penalty it is a different game, but that's no excuse. Davy (McDaid) has a chance just after and if he scores, it could change the game.

"It's fine margins. We need to make sure that, when things don't work out, heads don't start to drop."

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