Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Cliftonville have to work harder: Breslin

Cup kings: (from left) Crusaders' Paul Heatley, Linfield keeper Jonny Tuffey, Cliftonville's Paddy McNally and Glenavon striker Mark Patton are going for League Cup glory

Cliftonville have been forced to endure a few headaches in the Danske Bank Premiership this season so manager Tommy Breslin was relieved to evade another one when the draw was made for the quarter-finals of the NIFL League Cup.

The holders, who emphatically swept aside neighbours Crusaders 4-0 in last season's final, will take on either Bangor or Lurgan Celtic at Solitude.

The Seasiders and Lurgan Celtic will wrestle next Tuesday night for the right to face the Reds on Tuesday, November 12.

Crusaders were handed a more daunting task in the last eight – Stephen Baxter's side take on Linfield at Windsor Park.

In the other ties, Ballymena United host Portadown while Ards travel to Glenavon.

The Sky Blues are the only side who have beaten Ronnie McFall's men in the Premiership this season so they will be looking for lightning to strike twice.

Breslin's men swept aside Dundela 5-0 on Tuesday night with Joe Gormley smashing in a hat-trick.

It was a welcome return to winning ways after a 2-0 derby loss to Crusaders at Solitude – the Reds' fourth league defeat to date.

It was a different story last season when the Reds only lost five matches in their sprint to a first league title in 15 years.

"We had a chat with the players but fitness wise they are fine," said Breslin. "I personally just think that they are not working as hard as they used to.

"The players have given that impression and they accepted it.

"Last year our team was built on winning the ball high up the park and then attacking from there whereas this year we are standing off teams too much as a unit, not just individuals, and we have work to do that.

"The other positive is that if we are going to have a bad spell it's better to have it now rather than when the prizes are handed out at the end of the season.

"But it's not just work-rate, it's also about confidence. There is also a fear of losing. Last year we were going out to win every game and there was no fear, this year teams are raising the ante and there's a bit of fear we may lose.

"We can look nervous and when that happens you are passing too early and not building things up correctly. We have got this out in the open and we'll see what happens," he said.

"We go to Ballinamallard on Saturday which is a smashing set-up and the hospitality is always good but we need to start getting a consistent run of wins in order to challenge for the league."

The comfortable win over Dundela could represent the turning of a corner for the Solitude men.

"It was a pleasing performance after the disappointment of Saturday," added Breslin.

"People were making a lot of our performance at the weekend but Crusaders are a difficult team to beat. They are a top side and strong defensively. We had a few players who had an off day and up until the two goals in a minute we were well in the match.

"We have put that one behind us and against Dundela we were a lot livelier and more creative.

"The front two players worked hard and got their reward. The positive way to look at it is we are only four points off the top of the table and we haven't kicked a ball.

"We are getting players back from injury and if we can sustain that and get more confidence with another few results we will see where it takes us."

On the Cup draw, Breslin said: "I think it's been kind but all I was looking for was a home draw. Bangor are flying and we played Lurgan Celtic in pre-season and they have changed since then but we will give our opponents respect."

Linfield v Crusaders is the real heavyweight battle of the quarter-finals and Blues keeper Jonny Tuffey said: "The boys have been fantastic in the league and while we dropped our standards a bit against Glentoran we showed great character in the end to get through to the next round.

"Crusaders are strong opponents and we know we will need to perform a lot better when that game comes around."

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