Eddie Patterson is keeping his fingers crossed that Cliftonville’s early-season troubles are behind them as he prepares for tomorrow’s meeting with Lisburn Distillery.
The Reds have been swamped with absenteeism for a whole host of reasons since the campaign kicked off and, after guiding his side through nine fixtures in just four weeks, Patterson admits he’s been grateful to have this week off.
“We’ve been playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday pretty much since the season started so it’s been nice to have a few free days,” he says.
“Players will always tell you they prefer matches to training, but I think it will have done us good to have six days without a game — probably the longest we’ve gone since the summer.
“We’ve had most of the lads involved and, now that holidays and work commitments finally appear to be done and dusted, we can start to kick on with greater competition for places.
“We’ve never had much luck with injuries and suspensions either but the bans have started to clear up and we can welcome Ciaran Caldwell back into contention for the match with Distillery. Hopefully we can cut down on the suspensions from here.”
The Reds boss has, however, revealed that the recent absences of his team’s more established names have opened the door to a number of Solitude’s young starlets.
“The kids have been thrown in earlier than I would have liked but they’ve done very well,” he added.
“Liam Boyce, Ryan Dunlop and Mark Clarke have all scored goals for us and the rest of the boys know they have to work very hard to get themselves back into the team.
“I’ve no doubt that’s a challenge they’re going to relish trying to meet, but full credit to the kids — their performances have enforced this situation.”