Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Europa League: Portadown can fire Cliftonville's belief

Mark Holland says Cliftonville can take inspiration from Portadown’s Europa League victory over Skonto Riga last week.

Prior to that game, Holland was the last man to have scored a winning goal for an Irish League side in Europe — also in Latvia, when the Reds defeated FC Dinaburg in 2007 — and says he and his team mates are looking forward to returning to the continental stage tonight.

“I think Portadown reminded us all that we can get wins in Europe, we just need to have a bit more belief about ourselves,” he said.

“Their win against Skonto Riga was great for them and great for the league but, at the end of the day, we don’t want to get caught up in any hype about that because we still have a job to do ourselves.”

This evening’s game will be played at Windsor Park due to the ongoing installation of a 3G surface at Solitude but Holland doesn’t believe that will necessarily hamper Cliftonville’s chances.

“We know what we’re capable of and I think our record at Windsor has been pretty good over the last few years so nobody’s concerned about that,” he adds.

“The boys are all looking forward to it. Getting into Europe is a big thing and we were delighted to qualify, so we don’t want to let it pass us by.

“Obviously Cibalia are a team of full-time professionals and they come from a very strong league which means they have to start as massive favourites. We’ll give them the respect they deserve but we also know that we can give them a game.

“We played Macclesfield Town on Sunday and, even though we lost |2-1, the result doesn’t really tell the story of the match. The second-half was one-way traffic but we just couldn’t equalise.

“Friendly games are more about the performance than the result and we can definitely take confidence from how we played against a full-time team.”

Holland also admits that, having featured in defence in the Reds’ pre-season schedule, he doesn’t envisage a return to the front line any time soon.

“I feel more comfortable playing at the back,” says the 31-year-old.

“That’s where I played when I was at Killyleagh and it was only when I scored a few goals for Distillery that they used me as a striker.

“I see myself more as a defender now — though I’m happy to play anywhere the manager asks me.”

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