Belfast Telegraph

McLaughlin's clean sheet demand can help Cliftonville into Europe, says classy Curran

Glenavon 0 Cliftonville 2

On target: Ryan Curran celebrates his strike at Mourneview
On target: Ryan Curran celebrates his strike at Mourneview

By Alex Mills

Versatile Ryan Curran believes Cliftonville can claim a European bonanza.

The 26-year-old helped the Reds nudge into fifth place in the Danske Bank Premiership table following an impressive win over Glenavon at Mourneview Park on Saturday.

Conor McMenamin shot Paddy McLaughlin's men into a first half lead before Curran gobbled up his ninth goal of the season, slotting in a Joe Gormley pass.

It was new boss McLaughlin's third win - from four starts - since taking over at the beginning of last month and, although the play-offs provide the North Belfast boys with their only possible route to European football, former Ballinamalllard United player Curran insists it's a challenge they will relish.

"European qualification is what we are all after," he said. "As soon as Paddy came in, he said that was the aim.

"Every game is now a cup final. We need to put a run of form together, we need to be more consistent. Everyone is playing for each other, just as we did under Barry Gray, but when a new manager comes in, everyone seems to find a new lease of life.

"Paddy has worked on rejuvenating the group."

Curran admits he is now producing his best spell of form since moving to Solitude.

He added: "I scored two against Warrenpoint Town last week and one against Glenavon - that's nine for the season. It's all about taking your chance when you get it.

"It was a hard earned three points against Glenavon. With Paddy being a former defender, he has put a big emphasis on clean sheets. He passed that message through the team.

"We know we have the fire power up front, we'll always score goals, but we were leaking a few, so we are beginning to show a bit of steel at the back."

Curran couldn't believe his luck when Gormley provided the pass for the goal that sealed the deal.

He chuckled: "I had it in the back of my head if I miss this, I'll be a right fool. The ball seemed to take an age to come across - and it was on my left foot.

"I thought if I hit this wide, it will be the worst miss of the season. To be honest, I didn't expect Joe to pass it because he could really have taken it on himself. He doesn't usually pass the ball in that position."

Although Gormley hasn't hit the net since January 12, Curran believes it's only a matter of time before he starts firing again.

"He is still the league's top marksman," he added. "Joe had a few chances, but their goalkeeper pulled off some brilliant saves.

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton insists his boys' lack of penetration cost them.

"We are lacking confidence in the final third, which is a worry," he said. "To win games, you need quality in the final third. My boys look different players away from home which puzzles me.

"We never really looked like scoring against Cliftonville. In saying that, I thought we had a decent shout for two penalty kicks. Rhys Marshall was taken down from behind. If it had happened outside the box, it's a free kick all day long.

"The other one was a blatant hand ball (by Conor McMenamin). Had we be awarded one of them, it could well have changed the dynamic of the game."

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marron, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell (Hall, 83 mins), McCloskey, Singleton, Garrett, Stewart (Murray, 54m), Wearen (Hamilton, 72m), Sharkey. Unused subs: Harmon, Larmour, Norton, Jenkins.

CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, Breen (Ives, 56 mins), Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, A Harkin, Bagnall, Gormley (Catney, 90 mins), McMenamin, Gorman. Unused subs: Neeson, McConnell, Maguire, A Donnelly, Rocks.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

Man of the match: Joe Gormley

Match rating: 6/10

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