Cliftonville get key men back
We may be almost a quarter of the way through the first JJB Sports Premiership season, but Cliftonville are just about to find their feet.
It’s been a long time coming with the Reds having had their worst start to a campaign for a couple of years having recently pushed the Big Two all the way in the race for the title.
It started so well too, with a 5-1 demolition of Ballymena United on the opening day however defeating the Braidmen hasn’t turned out to be an exclusive feat for Eddie Patterson’s side.
But since that game the Reds have won just one more league game and have been defeated four times already.
But in fairness to them, they have done so without a number of key players and Patterson has had to throw together something of a makeshift team since the beginning of the season.
Now though, things are beginning to look up and Cliftonville go into today’s encounter with north Belfast rivals Crusaders on something of a high after beating Glentoran 3-0 to book a place in the Co Antrim Shield Final next month.
It was a game that saw Patterson breath a sigh of relief as his team finally clicked into gear, but most of that was down to the fact that Barry Johnston and Francis Murphy are now free from injury.
And with Conor Downey also set to be back soon, the push for European and Setanta Sports cup places can now begin in earnest.
“It’s been a frustrating season for us so far because we know we haven’t performed to the level that we had set ourselves over the past couple of seasons,” said Patterson.
“We had been missing a lot of players through injury but even then, we weren’t playing well and I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on the missing players.
“But the fact is we don’t have a big squad and when you are missing players like Barry Johnston and Francie Murphy then you are going to find it difficult.
“Neither of the two of them are fully fit yet but we seen (against Glentoran) just how much they bring to our team.
“Now I am hoping we move forward and put in a good display against Crusaders.”