Belfast Telegraph

Linfield skipper Gault has score to settle with Cliftonville

By Graham Luney

Linfield skipper Michael Gault doesn't remember his last visit to Solitude with any great affection.

The midfielder was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Martin Murray as the Blues slumped to a 3-0 defeat in November.

Cliftonville's Barry Johnston was also sent off following a scuffle that was sparked by Gault's challenge as the reigning champions had the last laugh as they gained revenge for a 4-1 defeat at Windsor Park in a County Antrim Shield battle at the end of October.

Tommy Breslin's side also won the opening league clash between the sides 4-2 at Windsor in August.

The Blues and Reds will resume hostilities at Solitude on Saturday with Linfield five points clear of their cross-town rivals in the title race.

An away win, which would secure an eight-points advantage at the summit, would seriously damage Cliftonville's hopes of retaining the championship.

Gault knows there is much at stake and he's hoping for a better afternoon than his last adventure at the north-Belfast venue.

"The last time we played there we lost 3-0 and I was sent off so it wasn't one of my better afternoons, but it was disappointing to miss so many matches," he said.

"I was in and out of the team after that and I think I missed about six games so I had to spend that time working on my fitness.

"There's nothing like playing matches though and it's good to be involved again.

"First and foremost we want to give a good account of ourselves and give 100 per cent commitment.

"A while back we won there when we needed to. I can remember Daryl Fordyce scoring two goals and a 3-1 win helped us clinch a league title.

"More recently our record at Solitude is poor, but we want to put that right and in this league you often get the chance to do that."

Much pre-match talk will centre around the Reds putting pressure on Linfield, but Gault knows how difficult it can be to play catch-up as well.

"They will be feeling a lot happier after winning the League Cup, but we have to remember that things are in our hands in the league," he added. "There is pressure on Cliftonville to win the game and stay in touch with us.

"We know what it feels like to fall behind and have to claw back the points. Last season we found that very hard."

The Blues missed the opportunity to go seven points clear at the top last Friday night when basement battlers Ards held David Jeffrey's side to a 3-3 draw at Windsor Park.

Gault added: "It was disappointing not to win the game, but the bigger picture is we are five points clear at the top of the league and that's a much healthier position than this time last season."

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