Cliftonville's Joe Gormley celebrates scoring his second goal against Linfield

Cliftonville's Joe Gormley celebrates scoring his second goal against Linfield

Plenty of questions have been posed to Cliftonville this season - and at times the champions have been found searching for answers.

But on Saturday Tommy Breslin’s side delivered the perfect riposte to anyone questioning their title credentials.

The Reds earned the plaudits last season as they stormed to the Gibson Cup - their first championship in 15 years.

The celebrations appeared to last throughout the whole summer, even lingering into the new campaign.

Cliftonville’s start to their title defence was sluggish as they adjusted to life as champions.

‘One season wonders’ was one popular jibe from rival fans, quick to doubt the North Belfast club’s title mettle.

Those barbed comments may come back to haunt those critics.

Saturday’s emphatic 3-0 win over Linfield is the benchmark that boss Breslin will be demanding for the rest of the season.

It was evidence that Cliftonville still possess the character and quality to be major players in the Premiership.

Defeat on Saturday would have left them labouring 10 points behind Linfield.

It would have been a seismic gulf, even at this early jucture in the title race.

Instead, Cliftonville are now only four points adrift of new league leaders Crusaders.

Ironically, the lingering doubts surrounding the champions come on the back of what has been an encouraging run of form.

They have lost only once in their last 10 Premiership outings - they have won three of their last four.

Momentum is building. Confidence is breezing through the Solitude turnstiles.

Next up are games against Glenavon, Ards and Ballinamallard United - winnable fixtures where points should be gleaned.

You get a sense that Breslin’s players are slowly realising the task at hand.

Last season’s heroics are fast becoming history - as glorious as they are.

They accept they will have to raise the bar this season - it is a price that comes with being champions.

They are there to be shot at, and they have sustained a few wounds in their opening 18 games.

But they are still standing - and lurking with intent and the rest of the leading pack will be wary.




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