Belfast Telegraph

Big tests giving Reds chance to build head of steam: McLaughlin

Tough start: Paddy McLaughlin is negotiating a tricky opening
Tough start: Paddy McLaughlin is negotiating a tricky opening

By Conor McLaughlin

Paddy McLaughlin has been left wondering what he did to upset the Danske Bank Premiership's fixture planners but he won't be complaining if his Cliftonville side can maintain their encouraging start by getting the better of Crusaders today.

This afternoon's Solitude showdown represents the toughest of the Reds' domestic assignments so far this season and McLaughlin, whose men battled to a late draw against Coleraine last Saturday before sweeping Glenavon aside in midweek, is under no illusions as to the size of the task presented by their north Belfast derby foes.

"Whoever looks after the fixtures has thrown us a few hurdles in these opening few weeks but we're enjoying the big games and have reacted to them well so far," he said.

"We had to dig deep and really grind out a point against Coleraine in the first match but we showed a completely different side to us when we played Glenavon. That's the sort of football that Cliftonville fans want to see and long may it continue but obviously there are times when you have to mix things up.

"We know that Crusaders will be a very tough test for us. They have been one of the best sides in the Irish League for a number of years now, they have some of the best and most talented players in the division and they're always up there challenging for titles and trophies.

"I don't think anybody expects that to be any different this season and they've started very well with two wins and no goals conceded so far.

"It's going to be tough for us but we believe we can make life difficult for them as well. We know how important these derby matches are and, if we can get a win to add to what we've done so far, we'll be in a decent position."

McLaughlin hopes to welcome Conor McMenamin back after he sat out Tuesday's defeat of Glenavon, while Garry Breen's suspension has come to an end. Skipper Chris Curran has not started either of Cliftonville's Premiership games so far and, as his options increase, the Reds boss is looking forward to seeing what impact competition for places will have on the Solitude men throughout the campaign ahead.

"I know supporters always want to see big signings and a lot of new faces coming in over the summer but, for me, it was just a case of adding to the quality already in the squad and maybe tweaking one or two things here or there," he added.

"We've done well so far and the competition for places that we have will hopefully help us keep to good standards."

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