Tommy Breslin says that last night’s 4-1 victory over Glentoran was the perfect way for Cliftonville to answer the critics who had been posing questions about their Danske Bank Premiership credentials.
Having suffered defeat in their New Year’s Day clash with Linfield, the Reds then saw both the Blues and fellow challengers Crusaders claim three points over the weekend and then had to contend with a bout of amateur psychology which suggested their mental strength would not be able to cope with the pressure of last night’s occasion.
Under the glare of the Sky Sports spotlight, however, the Reds stormed back from a goal behind to record a triumph which extended their lead at the top of the table to six points — and still with a game in hand to come.
“Questions were asked of us and those questions were answered,” said Breslin.
“People were wondering if we could cope with the expectation or handle the pressure of other teams winning but we never paid any attention to that. It’s still only January and there’s a hell of a long way to go in the title race, so I don’t think anyone should be feeling any heat anywhere — at this club or any other.
“To win the game from 1-0 down also demonstrated a bit of character and, after being knocked out of our rhythm a wee bit in the early stages, I felt we recovered well, got ourselves level before half-time and then went on to get a deserved win after the break.”
And Breslin, whose charges travel to Donegal Celtic for their other outstanding fixture next Tuesday night, now believes his own team have the opportunity to ask questions of those around them.
“Before either Crusaders or Linfield kick another ball in the
league, we’ll have played another game,” he explained.
“If we can get anything from that, our lead will have been extended even further but, even if we were to lose it, we’d still be well placed.
“We’re in the position every other team would want to be. This win was good for their belief and confidence levels because, since losing to Linfield, they’ve had to wait nearly a full week to get back on the pitch and I think you could see in their performance that they were raring to go.”
Opposite number Eddie Patterson felt that first half injuries to Calum Birney and Richard Clarke upset his side’s gameplan but acknowledged that Cliftonville were worthy winners.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” he said.
“Our defending was very poor for all of the goals. The first one, it was a bad clearance, then we’ve not picked up properly for the second. The third was a poor backpass and then, for the fourth, the ball’s been played into the box and we’ve not dealt with it at all.
“It’s frustrating because we started well, got ourselves in front and had looked in good shape, but we’ve then started losing battles and, in the end, we didn’t deserve to get anything.”
And his thoughts on his former club’s title chances?
“It’s theirs to lose now,” he added.
“Six points clear with a game in hand, it would take a lot for anyone to catch them. It wouldn’t be impossible but you’d have to say Cliftonville look good for it.”