Belfast Telegraph

We're now firing on all cylinders again, says Cliftonville star Smyth

by Stuart McKinley

MARC Smyth has declared the complacency that threatened to undermine Cliftonville's defence of the Irish League title has been banished.

And he wants to hammer home the message that the Reds are back by claiming victory in tomorrow's Solitude showdown with leaders Linfield.

After suffering four defeats in their opening 10 matches – more than they suffered before clinching the title last season – Cliftonville are now on a seven-match unbeaten run.

That has taken them to within seven points of the Blues and Smyth believes that closing that gap to just four points will strike fear into the teams who are trying to wrestle the Gibson Cup from the Reds' grasp.

"I don't think confidence was ever a problem, the one thing that might have been a problem was over confidence," said Smyth.

"Last year we knew that we were going to win games because we were playing very well. This year we were going into games thinking the same way, but we'd no right to because we weren't playing as well and it came back to bite us.

"I do think complacency played a part, but that's out of the way now.

"If we beat Linfield we'll be four points behind them. It's only November, but I'd be happy with that situation when the split comes in April and we've to play all the other top teams.

"I think that if we do close the gap to four points having not played well up to this stage other teams will start to look at us as a real threat."

Manager Tommy Breslin, his players and the fans have all searched for reasons as to why the Reds haven't performed to the same level as last season.

There is no doubt that there is Smyth's complacency theory. A lack of hunger has been cited, but Breslin – who knows his players better than anyone – never felt that was the case.

They have, however, got their mojo back and Breslin bore witness to that on the back of their battling 4-3 win over Coleraine a fortnight ago.

"As players we have felt that the spark is back too. Was there a hangover from winning the league last year? That might have been the case," said Smyth.

"I do think that after winning the league, starting back early because of the Celtic games and all that they involved left us physically and mentally tired.

"That's not an excuse, but I think that we've got our second wind now and everything is better.

"The performances have been better, but the results still need to improve.

"We've got a bit of consistency about us now and I think that's down to there being a consistent team on the pitch for the first time this season.

"The main reason though is that we are all clicking at the right time; the strikers are scoring goals again, Diarmuid O'Carroll and Martin Donnelly have been excellent out wide whereas earlier in the season there was a lot of chopping and changing."

Now there is just one more thing that Smyth wants to change.

"If we can cut out the individual mistakes that are costing us goals then we'll do even better."

Belfast Telegraph


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