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Breslin urges Reds to build on Linfield win

By David Mohan

CLIFTONVILLE manager Tommy Breslin is hoping that last week’s stunning victory over Linfield can help his side put together a winning run as they head into the busy Christmas period.

The Reds’ 3-0 win was reminiscent of the form they showed on their run to the league title last year and saw them cut the gap at the top to just four points behind league leaders Crusaders, while Linfield drop to second on goal difference.

While defeating the Blues is always a welcome development around Solitude, the manner of the win including a much welcomed clean sheet made it a happy day for the Reds boss.

“We answered our critics and proved that those performances are in us,” he said.

“When you consider in the last two games, we conceded six soft goals, but we restricted Linfield to very little so credit to them for that.

“There is that determination among the players. They look sharp in training but over the last while, we have just had some hiccups. Against Portadown, Joe Gormley wasn’t there and this week Barry [Johnston] won’t be there, so there are wee pieces of the jigsaw we keep missing out on.”

Johnston – scorer of the second goal against Linfield – will miss out for the meeting with the Lurgan Blues following his red card at the weekend after a tangle with Michael Gault.

There is better news on the injury front for Breslin with George McMullan available for selection while Chris Curran is expected to return in the coming weeks.

He is also hoping that Stephen Garrett and Ciaran Caldwell continue their rehabilitation as his squad finally looks to be returning to full strength.

“If we get those players back, it becomes a bigger and stronger squad and we need that,” added Breslin.

“We need everybody because the season we have had so far with injuries has left us down to the bare bones.”

A full squad at this point of the season would certainly be another shot in the arm going into such a key period.

Just seven points separate the top five teams in the league with the title race looking like it could be the most competitive for years and Breslin says this is a welcome development.

“It’s good for the league. It (the lead) will change as teams go into a run of fixtures, be they hard games or, no disrespect to the others, the so-called easy fixtures,” he predicts.

“But there are no easy fixtures so it will just be who can hold their nerve or produce performances and get that rub of the green that will fill those top places.

“It’s all to play for and it’s great for the league. If this run continues to March or April, it will be the league that is the winner.”

If Cliftonville want to be in that title mix, Breslin accepts his side must start putting together a winning run after a season that has seen them drop a number of points when in winning positions.

They have already lost to Saturday’s opponents, when an Andrew McGrory strike was enough to claim all three points for Gary Hamilton’s side back in September in Mourneview Park.

Breslin is wary of a repeat on home soil this weekend but says they must put in a performance and back last weekend’s Linfield victory up if they are to close the gap at the top even further.

“We lost 1-0 and missed a lot of chances there,” recalls Breslin of that earlier defeat to Glenavon who sit in sixth place going into this weekend.

“They are very capable and on their day, they can produce and score goals so we will need to back up this week’s result.

“The players know now they have that type of performance in them, so the challenge is to continue that.

“It really is about momentum. If we don’t get a result next week, then it counts for nothing.

“I’m not saying we have had a few false dawns, but we have to back it up and reach that level of performance because that’s the benchmark. If we produce that every week, we won’t be far away.”

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