Tommy Breslin says tomorrow’s Mourneview Park showdown with Glenavon is Cliftonville’s biggest game of the season.
The Reds gained the upper hand in the race for a guaranteed Europa League place with Saturday’s 4-0 victory over 10-man Portadown but, with the Lurgan Blues just three points behind, Breslin has underlined the importance of securing a positive result in Lurgan.
“The way the fixtures have worked out after the split, each one gets more important as you go along,” he says.
“Portadown was our biggest game of the season because we were both neck and neck for third place in the table and, now that match has gone, Glenavon becomes the biggest game.
“They’re probably the form team in the league at the minute and it’s only a few weeks since they beat us. They’ve since gone on to defeat Linfield and Glentoran so they’ll be full of confidence and belief that they can reign us in by beating us again.
“There aren’t a lot of points separating third and sixth, so it’s going to nip and tuck over these next few weeks”.
Cliftonville got off to the perfect start on Saturday when an already understrength Portadown team – missing the likes of goalkeeper David Miskelly, defenders Garry Breen and Chris Ramsey, midfield duo Robert Garrett and Michael Gault, frontman Mark McAllister and with experienced heads Keith O’Hara and Gary Twigg only fit enough for a place on the bench – was reduced to 10 men as stand-in keeper Billy Brennan took the long walk for a foul on Johnny McMurray.
Striker Darren Murray, arguably the Ports’ most likely scoring threat, took over between the sticks but was powerless to prevent Joe Gormley thundering home from the penalty spot.
Gormley’s 50th minute header broke the Reds record he set last season for most goals in a single campaign and he stretched that statistic further by taking his tally to 39 with another spot-kick after Ross Redman had tripped the impressive James Knowles.
Martin Donnelly got the better of his cousin Murray to complete the scoring late on and, while knowing that a win against Glenavon tomorrow would go a long way towards securing third, Breslin believes his men can go even higher.
“We’re only four points behind Linfield and our aim is to get as many points as we can out of our next four matches and see where that takes us,” he adds.
“We’ve had two good wins in a row now but it’s important we build on that by taking the right approach and the right attitude down to Mourneview with us o.”
Ports assistant boss Kieran Harding said: “We had five youth team players out on the pitch and it was good to give them that experience, while Ken Oman was very good at the back for us.”