IRISH LEAGUE: Gerard Lyttle confident Cliftonville can bounce back from Shield exit

Gerard Lyttle
Gerard Lyttle

Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle believes his boys will be fired up for Saturday’s Danske Bank Premiership clash with Glenavon at Solitude despite of suffering their first defeat under his tenure.

It took a 20-minute period of extra time to separate the Reds and Linfield in the County Antrim Shield quarter-final clash in midweek, but a late Aaron Burns double sent Lyttle’s boys home licking their wounds.

However, the gaffer was happy even in defeat, but admits Gary Hamilton’s Lurgan Blues will pose another test of character.

“It’s a cliche, but they are all tough games,” said Lyttle, who replaced Tommy Breslin earlier in the season. “Last week at Coleraine was tough. Glenavon are what they are – they are a hard team to play against and they’ll be coming for points.

“They are strong and they are direct. It’s something we’ve got to deal with. They have two big men up front in Eoin Bradey and Kevin Braniff that are difficult to handle.

“Bradley is a strong boy. By all accounts, he was a handful for Crusaders last week. We saw highlights of the game and he caused them problems.

“It’s not just Bradley, Braniff and other boys in the team can hurt you. They’ve also signed the boy (Daniel) Kearns, who is a class act.”

Lyttle will not dwell on the Windsor Park defeat. In theory, they Reds are still unbeaten over a 90 minute period under his leadership.

“We rested a few players for the game – Marc Smyth, Chris Curran, Marty Donnelly were all missing, while we left Ryan Catney and Stevie Garrett on the bench, but that lads that came in did really well.

“A lot of them hadn’t really played a full 90 minutes, never mind another 20 extra-time.

“I couldn’t fault their hunger and desire. They battled right to the end, but it just wasn’t enough, so I’m not overly concerned because I know there is still a lot to come from this team.

“The boys are upbeat and they are focused on the next game.

“We are very solid defensively and offensively, we have got great attacking options, with bags of flair and pace. We’ll need the same again for what will be another big test against Glenavon.”

Lyttle is hoping to have the versatile Paul George included in the squad. The 21-year-old former Celtic player was snapped up form Dunfermline, but his registration wasn’t processed in time for the midweek action.

“We were hoping to have Paul involved against the Blues, but his registration from Dunfermline wasn’t processed in time – it was something like four minutes late, which was a bit frustrating.

“He hasn’t played for a while, but he’s a great talent – he can play up front or on the wing. He’s been training hard and he’s looked really sharp. We’ll have a head count for the weekend, he could well be involved at some stage against Glenavon.”