Paddy McLaughlin has inspired Reds to develop mean streak, says Jamie Harney
Impressive Jamie Harney credits manager Paddy McLaughlin for turning the Cliftonville defence into the meanest in the league.
The rampaging Reds have conceded just 10 goals from their 17 starts so far - a staggering 13 fewer than the same stage 12 months ago.
A hard-fought draw at Larne last week meant that McLaughlin's boys were nudged off top spot in the Danske Bank Premiership table - but only on goal difference.
Harney, who has made an outstanding contribution alongside Garry Breen in the heart of the Reds backline, insists McLaughlin has helped breathe a new confidence not only into the back four, but throughout the entire team.
Their resolve will again be put to the test against Mick McDermott's Glentoran, who will today arrive at Solitude looking for a little bit of revenge following a recent County Antrim Shield semi-final defeat.
"There are a lot of things that have contributed to us stopping conceding sill goals," said Harney. "Paddy has given us a lot of confidence as a back four. We also had a determination and bite in our game, but we lost it to a certain extent last season. I just feel we all have confidence in our own ability now.
"In many ways, I think we've gone back to the basics. Paddy likes us to get the ball down and play and we try to do that.
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"We know if we keep a clean sheet, we'll go very close to winning any game because of the strikeforce we have. We now have a really good focus.
"Garry and I have formed a good understanding and we take great pride in keeping clean sheets. It's going well so far, but there is still a long way to go - we are just over a third through the league programme."
The Reds approach today's game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Larne. Although Breen headed into his own net to gift the home team the lead, the defender laid on the equaliser for Joe Gormley, who smashed home a goal of the season contender.
"In the grand scheme of things, a draw was not a bad result," said Harney. "After two difficult games, some of the boys were out on their feet towards the end. But it's a tough league, so we were happy to get a point. Larne are a good side, especially on their home pitch.
"Both teams had half chances here and there, but generally both defences came out on top. Garry was unlucky with their goal, (Davy) McDaid put in a great cross. If Garry hadn't played the ball, (Johnny) McMurray was putting it in anyway.
"But it didn't affect him because 10 minutes later he set up the equaliser for Joe."
Harney is expecting another difficult day at the office against McDermott's improving Glens.
"We always get a tough time against Glentoran," he went on. "But we try to focus on what we do. We are in a good place at the minute and it's good to be challenging at the top.
"Paddy is very much a manager that keeps our feet on the ground. If we start getting ahead of ourselves and start listening to what people are saying about us, we'll be brought down to earth very quickly.
"There is no point in looking at the table. With the Christmas period coming up, with five games in such a short space of time, anything can happen.
"There are a lot of things that can change. It's good to have a bit of momentum going, so hopefully we can maintain that."
Danske Bank Premiership:
Solitude, Today, 3pm