Belfast Telegraph

Richard Clarke wary of Portadown potential to bounce back

By Graham Luney

Richard Clarke knows Crusaders will have to resist a Portadown backlash this afternoon.

The Ports are back at their Shamrock Park base still smarting from two defeats against Cliftonville and Ballymena United.

Those results certainly weren't in manager Ronnie McFall's script after the stunning 3-0 victory over Linfield on day one.

Crusaders netted their first league win of the season with a 3-1 triumph at home to Ballinamallard United last weekend and midfielder Clarke hopes to be sporting another winning smile this evening.

"Portadown is going to be a very tough game – they have strengthened and now have a lot of key players back," said the former Glentoran ace.

"They will be looking to bounce back from their two defeats so we have to prepare properly and come up with the right gameplan and impose our game on them.

"It's going to be a really competitive league with a lot of strong teams around. Ballymena United came to our place and will feel they could have won that one.

"Points are hard to come by and I think home games are important. If we can make Seaview a fortress again that will help us achieve our targets."

The Crues are dark horses for the crown that Cliftonville own after letting their challenge falter in recent years but those disappointments have deepened the desire to reach the promised land at the end of this season.

"We have made no qualms about it – Crusaders in recent years have challenged for trophies and we want that to continue," added Clarke.

"We have dropped away in league challenges but the management and players are very clear in our ambitions.

"We want to be up there challenging and go a step further than we have been and be in the title mix. I'm not saying we are going to do this and that but we should be strong enough to put in a challenge with the squad we have."

* Crusaders' game against Linfield on Saturday, September 6 has been postponed due to call ups to the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad. A new date will be announced soon.

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