Donegal Celtic will seek a first-ever victory over Cliftonville tonight, knowing that it will mean more than owning mere bragging rights for the weekend.
Three Premiership points could lead to safety in the top flight for the west-Belfast club promoted via a play-off last season.
Manager Paddy Kelly has seen his battling platoon shift off the foot of the Premiership and into the play-off position — and with next Friday’s trip to bottom-placed Newry City to come, he’s naturally keen to leave north-Belfast with pressure alleviated from the slender one-point advantage over the border club.
While the Reds barely resemble Cliftonville of late, due to mounting injuries torturing manager Eddie Patterson’s selections, they are vying for a spot in European competition next season and have an eye on the Setanta Cup final after reaching the semi-finals.
They face Dundalk in the first-leg of the last four at Solitude on Monday but Celtic boss Paddy Kelly insists there is never a good time to be facing Cliftonville while in need of points.
“This is a derby game and both teams will be up for it,” said Kelly.
“Cliftonville could be playing in any cup competition semi-final on Monday and there wouldn’t be a chance of them taking their eye off a game against us.
“I’m not concerned that we have never beaten them, although I am pleased that over time the games have become tighter and harder to predict. We need the points, but Cliftonville need them for different reasons and that will add spice to the game.”
Cliftonville’s one-time cult-hero Declan O’Hara returns from suspension to face his old employer at Solitude, but Kelly will be without Liam Watson (knee) and his “find of the season” Ryan Henderson (suspended).
He said: “We will give it our best shot to stay in the Premiership,” said Kelly.
“We believe we can grow in strength if we survive, but we have to give it one an almighty effort between now and the end of the season.”