Linfield relishing champions test against high-flying Cliftonville

Andy Waterworth is back in action for Linfield
Andy Waterworth is back in action for Linfield

Linfield boss Warren Feeney admits his team are ‘relishing’ Tuesday’s showdown against Danske Premiership title holder Cliftonville at Solitude.

Both sides approach the game the best possible state with the Reds having bagged four in the weekend trip to Ballinamallard, while Feeney’s boys picked up three valuable points with a narrow one goal win at Dungannon.

So, something must give when the Belfast rivals go head to head at a packed North Belfast venue.

“Regardless of what team we play, I treat very game the same,” said Feeney. “But I know it’s always a special occasion with these sides meet.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of noise from their fans, but I’m used to that. Tommy (Breslin) has got a good team. There are the defending champions, but it’s a challenge our boys are relishing. It’s a massive test.”

Feeney added he was delighted to get back to winning ways following the horrible League Cup defeat at Ballyclare earlier in the week.

“I was thrilled with the win over Dungannon,” he added. One-nil, a clean sheet and three points on the board. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“We are adjusting to a new system. We’ll get better. I believe in these boys. Yes, we were disappointed with the Ballyclare result. All of a sudden there was a crisis, which I laughed at.

“The reality is we used eight or nine fringe players on the night and they didn’t do themselves justice. So it was nice to get back to winning ways at Dungannon.”

Feeney will include Andy Waterworth in the squad. The former Glentoran man returned to first team action at the weekend following a hamstring problem.

“It was great to have Andy back,” added Feeney. “He has been bursting to get started again. He’s been training and feeling good. But I just have to be careful with him.

“He has got a bit of pace and power. I just hope he doesn’t have any reaction to the injury.

“Sammy Morrow and Jamie Mulgrew also trained with Waterworth this week and are not too far off full fitness. Sean Ward and Reece Glendinning are more long term. They are still a few weeks away.”

Reds boss Tommy Breslin is hoping to maintain his team’s impressive form.

“Games with Linfield are usually played at hectic pace and this will be no different,” he said.

“We’d a good win at Ballinamallard at the weekend, scored four and kept a clean sheet. It was pleasing. We now fact a different kind of challenge, which we must meet head on.”

Meanwhile, Glenavon will be without the suspended Shane McCabe for the visit of Ballinamallard United to Mourneview Park.

“It’s another tough game,” said Lurgan Blues boss Gary Hamilton. They came here last season and turned us over 3-2. We’ll have to be on our game to get something from the match.”

Defensive duo, James Singleton and Conor Dillon are both out due to injury. Midfielder Mark Patton also remains out, while Kyle Neill and Kevin Braniff are both carrying knocks.

“They came through the Ballymena game, but we’ll have a look at them. Fingers crossed they both be ok.”