Cliftonville midfielder Barry Johnston out to prove a point against Portadown

INCENTIVE: Barry Johnston
INCENTIVE: Barry Johnston

Barry Johnston is hoping Cliftonville can send out a “massive statement” by beating Portadown at Shamrock Park.

The Reds continue to lead the way at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.

Tommy Breslin’s men boast a healthy nine-point lead at the summit following Tuesday’s gutsy win against Donegal Celtic.

Stephen Garrett got the only goal of the game to maintain Cliftonville’s title drive.

The Reds have been forced to contend with the pressure of being most pundits’ favourites to lift the Gibson Cup in May, while others continue to doubt the Solitude club’s title mettle this season.

Only time will tell whether Johnston and his teammates can shoulder the weight of expectation.

But the 31-year-old midfielder believes victory at Shamrock Park on Saturday - weather permitting - would answer a few lingering questions.

“We know if we win on Saturday it will send out a big statement to the rest of the league,” Johnston said.

“Everyone in the league would have to sit up and take notice, so there is a big incentive there for us on Saturday.

“Every game is going to be a cup final for us, but we are not feeling any added pressure.

“Nobody expected us to be sitting top in January so we are just enjoying it. We will give it our best, and if it is good enough then great. If not, at least we will have given it a go.”