Midfielder Barry Johnston insists Cliftonville are ‘Hungary’ to cause Euro shock

Barry Johnston (left) in the thick of it against Debrecen last week
Barry Johnston (left) in the thick of it against Debrecen last week

Experienced midfielder Barry Johnston insists Cliftonville are refusing to “just make up the numbers” in Hungary on Tuesday.

The Reds are preparing for a daunting Champions League second qualifying round, second leg tie against Debrecen (7.30pm kick-off BST).

Cliftonville go into the clash at the Nagyerdei Stadion buoyed by last week’s spirited 0-0 draw with the Hungarian champions at Solitude.

Debrecen remain firm favourites to progress from Tuesday’s Euro renewal, but Johnston is refusing to rule out a shock.

“We know we are in for a tough night. This is a massive test for us,” the 34-year-old said.

“But at the same time we are not here to sit back and roll over. We are not here to make up the numbers.

“We are going to have a go and see where it takes us. We won’t defend and try and hold out, as you end up asking for trouble. We will try and grab an away goal.”

Johnston is confident Cliftonville have the firepower to cause Debrecen plenty of problems.

“If we can nick a goal in this leg, anything is possible. It would certainly make things very interesting,” he added.

“It isn’t beyond us to score an away goal. We have the likes of Joe Gormley, Marty Donnelly and Chris Curran in the side, so we are always liable to create chances.

“I suspect they know it won’t be plain sailing for them, so we want to play on those doubts as much as we can.”

Debrecen were held at Solitude last week, a result that earned Cliftonville plenty of plaudits.

But despite the shut-out in north Belfast, Johnston accepts his Irish League champions still have a mountain to climb.

“Debrecen are a top side and they’re right up there with the clubs we have faced in Europe in recent years,” he added.

“We played Celtic in the Champions League last season and it would be a toss of a coin between Debrecen and Celtic in terms of the quality they have.

“They are really sharp and have five or six Hungarian internationals, so they are a top side. One mistake or misplaced pass and they will punish you.”

The winners of tonight’s tie will face Belarusian giants FC Bate Borisov or Albanian outfit KS Skenderbeu in the third qualifying round.