Cliftonville boss Seamus McCorry is seeing plenty of signs of improvement in his youthful squad and believes an upturn in results is not far away.
The Reds have lost three of their opening four league outings but have yet to fall to a heavy defeat and scored four goals against Sion Swifts last time out, despite playing a large portion of the match with a player less after Megan Moran’s red card.
McCorry - who took over initially at Solitude as a caretaker boss at the tail end of last season - has emphasised the need for patience as he sees the progress his squad is making.
“We have a really young and inexperienced squad,” McCorry said.
“We have two 16-year-old goalkeepers and a typical starting XI we have four or five 16-17-year-old’s on the pitch.
“I came in late last season and it was really just a case of steadying the ship, as we were thin on the ground with squad numbers and those coming into the squad from the youth setup.
“This season was all about developing what we have and to get a core group of teenagers to a level where they can be competitive against the best in the country, and the standard this year is so high.
“We need to drill into these young players the level of dedication and work away from the pitch that needs to be done if they are to emulate the international players in this league.
“We only have the players for full training sessions for just one or two sessions a week, so the time away from that is really important.
“We need to make sure they are eating right, sleeping right and getting their gym sessions and fitness in to compliment all that.”
Whilst there is little threat of the Reds challenging the leagues leading clubs in the table this campaign, they are a real threat in every match of taking points.
“Pre-season was incredibly disrupted and that has meant our fitness and sharpness hasn’t been what it could be,” admitted McCorry.
“We were unfortunate not to pick up something against Linfield and the Sion game was a rollercoaster, to come back from 5-2 down to 5-4 with ten players was a really impressive part of that one.
“The performances are at a level that we are happy with but now we need the results to follow from that and we are aiming for that to start at Derry on Wednesday.
“We need a little bit of luck and to start taking more of our opportunities when they come.”
Next up for the Reds is a trip to Derry City on Wednesday night before their final five games of the season, all coming against sides above them in the current standings.
“This year is a platform for future seasons where we can challenge the leading clubs,” added the boss.
“We know that this year is about development and getting the foundations of a competitive team in place, then building from there.
“Our performances aren’t a million miles away and each game we are competitive and laying down a challenge to opponents, but that needs to keep improving.”