Belfast Telegraph

Lyttle thrilled with Cliftonville change of attitude

Cliftonville 2-1 Ballymena United

By Conor McLaughlin

Gerard Lyttle put Cliftonville's first win in two months down to his players heeding his pre-match plea for leaders to step up to the plate.

Jay Donnelly - whose first-half header was cancelled out by Johnny McMurray - pounced for an 87th-minute winner against a Ballymena United side that had been reduced to 10 men when Tony Kane saw red shortly after the interval.

Lyttle has noticed a change in attitude from his squad in recent weeks and believes they can reap the benefits if they can maintain that throughout their post-split schedule.

"I think what summed our performance up was that, when I was looking at our subs bench, I couldn't think of anybody who deserved to be taken off," he said.

"I always run changes past the backroom staff to see their take on things and (first-team coach) George McMullan just looked at me and said 'how do you do it, how can you make those kind of decisions under pressure?'

"We had hard workers all over the pitch today and the players are doing what we asked them to. I don't care about talent, first and foremost I want to see a good attitude and a willingness to play for the shirt.

"If you don't have that, then all of the talent in the world will get you nowhere.

"We left Jay Donnelly out last week and I wanted to see a reaction from him. We got that and he was like the Jay Donnelly of old. Aaron Haire, what can I say? He never gives defenders a minute's peace and his attitude exemplifies everything I want.

"I thought Kym Nelson had a great game and Chrissy Curran, what a leader he's been for us. To be honest, I could go right through the whole team because I was pleased with everybody."

Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey was likewise proud of his own players' endeavours but felt the contest turned on the red card Kane received for a high challenge on Stephen Garrett.

"I saw two players going in whole-heartedly, both with their feet up, but the fourth official has told the referee it's a red card," he said.

"I'm left very frustrated, very angry but I'm also bitterly disappointed for my players because they gave it everything."

CLIFTONVILLE: J Mooney, Ives, Bonner, Curran, Garrett, M Donnelly, J Donnelly (Winchester, 90 mins), Cosgrove, Finnegan, Nelson, Haire (Lavery, 81 mins). Unused subs: Burke, Seydak, McNicholl.

BALLYMENA: Allen, T Kane, Owens, Flynn, McCloskey, Wallace, Ervin, Braniff (Friel, 37 mins), McKinney (Jenkins, 79 mins), McMurray, Kerr (McCaffrey, 89 mins). Unused subs: Glendinning, Millar.

Ref: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon)

Man of the match: Jay Donnelly

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