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Lawlor calms fears as Blues fans buy tickets for Reds end

 

The chairmen of Cliftonville and Linfield have insisted that safety is of paramount importance for Saturday's title decider at Solitude amid concerns that Blues fans may try to gain entry to the home stand for the crunch clash.

A draw would secure their first Irish League title since 2012, but officially only 748 of their supporters will be there to see it.

That's the capacity for the away section at Solitude with Linfield fans scheduled to be bussed into the north Belfast venue as part of the usual high security operation when these sides meet.

With thousands more Linfield fans hoping to attend the game, there had been suggestions that Cliftonville could provide another area of the ground to facilitate those numbers but Reds chairman Gerard Lawlor has declared the arrangements for Blues followers will remain the same as in previous years.

It is understood a small number of Linfield fans exploited a loophole on the Cliftonville website to purchase tickets in the home end of the stadium, though the Solitude outfit say those tickets have since been invalidated with the money refunded.

What remains a possibility is Linfield supporters paying at the turnstiles at the home end, though Lawlor revealed if they are wearing colours or show allegiance to the Blues during the match, the safety plan for the game allows security to remove them from the stadium.

Linfield, who have sold out their allocation for Solitude with tickets going to club members and season ticket holders, have confirmed they will meet with the PSNI later this week to discuss this issue and how best to manage the situation.

Cliftonville chairman Lawlor said: "We have had a lot of big games over the years with Linfield since they returned to Solitude and this one is no different. The tried and trusted arrangement has worked and now is not the time to alter those arrangements. Safety for the fans is our primary concern. It's unfortunate that we can only give Linfield the number of tickets they have been allocated but that's all we can make available to them."

Linfield counterpart Roy McGivern said: "In the past some Linfield fans not wearing our colours have paid into the home end at Cliftonville without any incident but there may be greater numbers considering that this time because of the nature of the game.

"The safety of fans is of paramount importance and Cliftonville are normally right on top of these things whether it is our fans or their own fans, so I'm sure they will deal with it professionally. We want a great occasion when hopefully our fans see our team win the league."

At a board meeting last night, Linfield discussed the possibility of showing the game on television screens at Windsor Park and bringing the team back to the stadium to celebrate with their own supporters if successful at Solitude on Saturday.

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