Cliftonville 3 Linfield 0
Tommy Breslin believes his Cliftonville players won’t get carried away about sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership.
And, as if to reinforce the point, he intimated that nobody is guaranteed their place in the team, despite this comprehensive dismantling of Linfield.
“We have another big game coming up next week at Ballymena,” he explained.
“It's a different challenge and I will have 18 hungry players coming training on Tuesday night. I need to consider who is best placed to start next week but it’s a squad game and we will need them all over the course of the season.
“It's still early November but we will enjoy where we are at this stage of the season. We will continue to pick up as many points as we can and see where that takes us.”
On Saturday, it took them six points clear of the chasing pack and 12 ahead of a 10-man Blues side, whose boss David Jeffrey afterwards bemoaned a lack of heart shown by his side.
Cliftonville had already threatened through Liam Boyce and Stephen Garrett before Ciaran Caldwell broke the deadlock with a simple 16th minute conversion.
The lead was doubled soon later thanks to a deflected Boyce strike and, though the visitors came close to reducing the arrears when first William Murphy and then Philip Lowry headed against the bar in a manic goalmouth scramble that also saw Reds keeper Conor Devlin hack an effort off the line, Breslin’s braves made safe the points when Murphy’s attempted clearance from George McMullan’s 51st minute cross cannoned against team mate Albert Watson and into the net.
“I thought we were very controlled in our performance today. I thought we might have faced a Linfield onslaught at some stage but that never materialised.,” added Breslin.
“We probably scored at the right times but, fair play to the players, they put in a thoroughly professional performance.
“At half-time, I just said to the players to keep it going. I knew that the next goal would be important and thankfully we got it.”
Linfield’s misery was rounded off when, for the second time in a fortnight, Mark McAllister received a straight red card from referee Mark Courtney (below).
Dismissed for hitting out at Portadown’s Chris Ramsey at Windsor Park, this time the 24-year-old took the long walk for an alleged stamp on Garrett — an interpretation which Jeffrey disagreed with.
“I was very disappointed with the sending off. I thought there was a very similar situation a couple of minutes later with Ryan Catney. I don't think he was trying to stand on our player and I thought it was exactly the same with Mark McAllister.”
Reflecting on the game and coming as close as the larger-than-life Blues boss can to being lost for words, Jeffrey added: “We basically lost the game in the first half.
“It was a very poor performance and it's one that I will really need to reflect upon. I cannot understand why we played to that level after playing particularly well in the last four games.
“I looked at a team who wanted it more than us. They had greater passion, desire and heart and why that happened I am still not exactly sure. I don't know whether some of our players just couldn't cope with the occasion and the atmosphere.
“We were facing a very good Cliftonville side and I have great respect for Tommy Breslin and for the job he is doing here.
“We now find ourselves 12 points behind and it is not a nice position to be in.”