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Lyttle 'down to bare bones' as Reds look to bounce back

By Conor McLaughlin

Gerard Lyttle admits it might be another case of 'square pegs in round holes' as Cliftonville attempt to bounce back from their Boxing Day battering when they face Glenavon this evening.

Just four days on from a 4-0 hammering at the hands of north Belfast derby rivals Crusaders, the Reds - whose preparations for that game were hampered when a virus afflicted the squad - travel to Mourneview Park minus the suspended Jay Donnelly as Lyttle prepares to assess his options.

"We are down to the bare bones," he admitted.

"It's square pegs in round holes at the minute. On Monday we were putting wide men into centre midfield and shuffling about. Sometimes you can get away with it and sometimes you don't - we didn't get away with it against Crusaders.

"I'm looking the boys to bounce back big time. They can't feel sorry for themselves, certainly we won't be feeling sorry for ourselves as a coaching staff."

One player likely to return is playmaker Jude Winchester, who sat out the recent victory over Carrick Rangers and wasn't risked against the Crues, despite being named among the substitutes.

"Losing Jude was a big loss because of how we play and, as I say, preparations leading up to the game hit us hard," Lyttle said.

"I'm not using that as an excuse - at the end of the day Crusaders deserved their win. But it gave us headaches we could have done without, especially in such a big game."

Prior to that loss, Cliftonville had strung together six consecutive Premiership wins and could climb above Linfield into second place - albeit possibly temporarily - if they can make it third time lucky in Lurgan, where they have twice suffered defeat already this season.

"The players need to respond and we've told them they need to prepare right, if they don't prepare right they'll get found out and if they're found out then they won't be playing.

"We're targeting Europe. Whether that is third place, Irish Cup, winning the league or second or whatever it is, that is our target and that's being realistic."

Glenavon have, meanwhile, revealed they are waiting to hear from the Irish Football Association over reports that they could forfeit the point earned in Monday's 2-2 draw with Portadown.

David Elebert is understood to have played in the fixture while suspended, with the Lurgan Blues yesterday releasing a short statement explaining: "If and when correspondence is received from the IFA, the Board of Directors will determine an appropriate course of action."

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