Belfast Telegraph

Tommy Breslin will freshen up Cliftonville to avoid an upset at Ballyclare

By Conor McLaughlin

Rather than underestimating tonight's opponents, Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin has vowed to ring the changes to his team out of respect for Ballyclare Comrades.

Just three weeks have passed since the Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 side shocked Linfield on League Cup duty and, while Blues manager Warren Feeney copped criticism for fielding a much-changed side at Dixon Park, Breslin says he has no other choice ahead of tonight's Toals County Antrim Shield first round clash.

"The way we played against Coleraine on Saturday isn't what we've come to expect," he explains.

"It might have only been our first defeat of the season but it came on the back of a run of questionable performances.

"After playing so poorly against Warrenpoint, we had a good week of training and looked like we were shaping up to get ourselves back on track but we didn't get the reaction we'd been expecting.

"We were lacklustre, sluggish all over the park and looked leggy for reasons I can't understand. I'm a firm believer that if you stick with the same team, you can expect the same outcome so we'll have to freshen things up for Ballyclare."

Though the Shield's remaining first round ties are scheduled for next week, the Champions agreed to bring their fixture forward to accommodate Comrades' call-ups to the Northern Ireland Regions Cup squad and, with their hosts likely to be at full strength, Breslin expects a stern test.

"We know that Ballyclare will be up for it and we only need to look to the fact they beat Linfield to see what they're capable of," he adds.

"I know Linfield made some changes for that match and maybe Ballyclare took advantage of that but, regardless, they still had to go out and win the game.

"We will mix things up too but that's not out of disrespect for our opponents or the competition – it's because we haven't been hitting the standards we expect of ourselves and other players deserve a chance.

"With the way the season has gone so far with injuries and suspensions, I think it's fair to say we don't know our strongest XI yet and maybe it will take a game like this to help us out.

"We'll take a few players out, allow others to get some minutes under their belts and hopefully, as well as winning the match, we'll come away from it knowing a little bit more about ourselves.

"We know the quality that exists in our dressing room, we just need things to click together and we can set ourselves off on a decent run."

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