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Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin: Title battle won't be a two horse race

By Conor McLaughlin

Tommy Breslin has swatted away the suggestion that only Linfield have the quality to thwart Cliftonville's bid for a third consecutive Danske Bank Premiership crown.

The Reds boss believes that Crusaders, Portadown and even Ballymena United – whose title hopes have been dismissed by most observers despite their bright start to the season – all have what it takes to get their hands on the Gibson Cup come April and warns that all Irish League fans should brace themselves for a rollercoaster of emotions as the campaign unfolds.

"Of course Linfield are going to be up there, history tells us that will be the case," he explains.

"It's rare for them not to be challenging for the title and, even in spite of the fact they have a new manager in place, they've signed a lot of players who will be aware of what's expected of them.

"We saw on Tuesday night that they're up for the fight but you also have to remember that Warren Feeney's missing a lot of very important players and when he gets the likes of Sean Ward, Andy Waterworth, Jamie Mulgrew and Peter Thompson back, you would expect to really see the best of them then.

"Having said that, I would never be arrogant enough to assume that it's just between us and Linfield. Obviously we hope to be in the mix come the end of the season but there are other teams who have the quality to put up a challenge as well.

"You look at how much Portadown have strengthened and you have to say they're in with a shot, plus Crusaders have been very consistent over the last few years and there's no reason to believe they won't be right up there too.

"Ballymena have had a great start and, even though I think most people probably expect them to fall away, why can't they keep it going?

"Momentum is a massive thing in football and, as we found out two seasons ago, once you have some of that behind you, you can be difficult to stop.

"Ballymena are top of the league, they're winning matches, in good form and their confidence will be high, so what if they keep winning? It would be disrespectful to write them off.

"Managers and players are always saying that anybody can beat anybody in this league but it's true and I think we're going to see that from top to bottom every single week.

"So many matches are difficult to predict and that's great for everyone involved because it shows that competition's high."

Despite slipping from the summit in midweek with the 0-0 draw against the Blues at Solitude, Cliftonville remain the Premiership's only unbeaten side and will put that record on the line when they travel to face Warrenpoint Town tomorrow in a game which Breslin won't be taking lightly.

"It doesn't matter who's where in the league, anything can happen on any given day," he adds.

"We've had problems with Warrenpoint before – plenty of them – and it will be important we have our attitude right.

"It's been a few years since we actually played down at Milltown but we know from other teams' experiences that it's obviously a very tough place to go.

"Linfield had serious difficulty against them down there last season and I'm sure they'll be well prepared and well drilled.

"They got their first win of the season on Tuesday (2-0 at Dungannon), but I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing for us because now their tails will be up!"

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