McLaughlin salutes fired-up Reds' response
If Cliftonville fans are wondering what words of wisdom boss Paddy McLaughlin imparted during half-time of Tuesday night's sensational Europa League play-off comeback against Coleraine, the answer is very simple - none at all.
The Reds reported back to the dressing room following a first-half when they had been second-best right across the park, allowing the Bannsiders to ease into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Richard Brush's own goal and a glorious header from James McLaughlin.
Joe Gormley's scrambled response 11 minute before the interval was, says the Cliftonville chief, the turning point in a contest that was hardly bereft of pivotal interventions.
"That goal gave us the confidence that we could maybe go on and get ourselves back into the match," says McLaughlin.
"You could see the life spark back into our players and we got better the closer we got to half-time.
"To tell the truth, I didn't even give a team-talk. The players were angry with themselves and they were determined to go back out and put it right."
One message McLaughlin did have for his troops, however, was to stick to their principles and take the game to their opponents.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
It seemed inevitable that such an approach would deliver an equaliser, only for the Cliftonville manager's namesake, James, to restore Coleraine's two-goal advantage with a wonderful overhead kick.
Conor McMenamin's quick response revived home hopes before Ryan Curran's injury-time penalty - the award of which was hotly disputed by the visitors - extended the game by 30 minutes, during which Levi Ives and McMenamin struck to wrap up a 5-3 success and send the Reds through to Saturday's final with familiar play-off foes Glentoran.
"We're better when we're on the front foot and I always tell the players that," adds McLaughlin. "We got off to a terrible start and we weren't ourselves at all. It looked like it was all going to slip away from us but the boys had the bravery to get on the ball, to keep passing, to keep playing and to stay on the front foot. That's how we'll have to play against Glentoran because they're a better team than they get credit for and they'll work us hard."
Opposite number Rodney McAree was crestfallen to see his side's season end in such heartbreaking fashion, with that penalty uppermost in his mind.
"I'm disappointed because we led 2-0 and 3-1 in stages and we have failed to win," he said.
"At full-time we had a group of players who had lost their focus and we conceded two minutes after the restart and that comes from a poor decision made by (referee) Steven Gregg.
"I don't know if he gave the decision because it was in front of the Cliftonville crowd but it crucified us."