Jamie McDonagh insists Cliftonville cannot afford to let two recent home defeats dent their Danske Bank Premiership title aspirations.
Having previously been unbeaten on their new synthetic surface at Solitude, back-to-back quick-fire losses against Crusaders and Glentoran have left Paddy McLaughlin’s boys playing catch-up at the top of the table.
Their latest set-back came on Monday night when Jay Donnelly’s delicious double helped Mick McDermott’s team pick up three valuable points, after McDonagh had got the Reds off to a dream start by firing home from 25 years.
Ahead of tonight’s trip to face Larne, McDonagh believes they have no time to start licking their gaping wounds.
“We were unbeaten at Solitude all season up until a few weeks ago and now we’ve lost to both Crusaders and Glentoran, so that is something we must address,” he said.
“Hopefully, it’s just a blip. We created enough chances in both games to get something out of them. Thankfully, we haven’t had too many off days in front of our home fans this season.
“Every team will have a rough patch, the most important thing is quickly getting over it.
“It means the next game is so important for us, we don’t want to go two, three or four games without a win. We must go on to Larne and get the three points.
“We are in a really tough run at the minute — Crusaders, Glentoran, Larne and then Linfield. It’s good to be up around the top end of the table, we want to continue that for as long as possible.
“It means every match is like a cup final, but after losing the last couple, it’s vital we take maximum points from the Larne game.”
Larne are also coming off the back of a disappointing home defeat by Dungannon Swifts, so McDonagh believes they’ll have something to prove.
He added: “Larne have had some great results — they beat Glentoran at The Oval recently — but then lost at home to Dungannon Swifts last week. It proves any team can beat any other on any given day. I’m sure Larne will be out to make amends for that result, but so are we. Both teams are in a similar position, so it means something must give.
“Three points for either side will be so important. We are sitting in a decent position, but we still want to get as high up the table as possible. It’s all about keeping the standards we have set so far.”
McDonagh insists Jay Donnelly was the difference between the teams on Monday night.
“It was uncharacteristic for us to concede such poor goals and at such poor times, either side of half-time,” he said. “In fairness to Glentoran they came out with all guns blazing after the break and we didn’t weather the storm.
“The second goal was from a set-piece, which again wasn’t like us. When you play against a player of Jay’s calibre, he doesn’t require many chances before he starts putting them away.
“He only had two or three opportunities over the 90 minutes, but he put two of them away.
“There were things we could have done better, leading up to both goals.
“We got off to a great start. I managed to put us in front and we created a few other chances as well. It was one of those ones, I thought I’d have a go here. I spotted (Aaron) McCarey was a bit off his line and I caught it well.
“It was nice to see it go in because I don’t score many — that was only my second of the season — but it meant nothing to me afterwards, I’d much rather have had the three points than score that goal.”