Lyttle eager for revenge after Reds' Seaview collapse
Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle admits he is still haunted by his last visit to Seaview - and he is urging his boys to put that right today. The Reds produced probably their best performance of the season to roar into a 3-0 lead back on October 1, only for the Danske Bank Premiership champions, Crusaders, to hit back with a late four-goal blitz.
Lyttle realises his team's title hopes are currently hanging by a thread as they trail Stephen Baxter's pace setters by a whopping 10 points and, with only 13 games remaining, it means that it's a win or burst scenario on the Shore Road.
"Crusaders are in the driving seat, there is no doubt about that," said Lyttle. "Even at this stage, it's a massive ask for ourselves and even for Linfield, who are three points above us.
"But we'll be going to Seaview looking for the win, make no mistake about it."
Even though they agonisingly lost that previous game, Cliftonville were so impressive that it promoted Crues boss Baxter to state it was the best performance he had witnessed by any side in his time in management.
"It was a nice compliment, but it was still a difficult defeat to stomach," said Lyttle. "Yes, it probably was our best 65 minutes of the season, but it was the worst 25 as well.
"We were 3-0 up and the reality is, you have to see out games when you are in a position like that. We were a little bit naive - some of the boys perhaps thought the game was done and dusted."
Lyttle can also reflect on his team's Boxing Day defeat by their north Belfast rivals - a performance he branded as "not good enough" after the Reds crashed to a 4-0 loss at Solitude.
"We let quite a few people down," said Lyttle. "We let the board and supporters down and, more importantly, the players let themselves down.
"Once again we were good for 55 minutes. We had a chance to pull it back to 1-1, but missed a penalty kick. That was just the boost the Crues needed to go on and win with plenty to spare.
"I'm not into making excuses, but our preparation for that game wasn't the best. There were a few issues going on, while a few players were down with a bug. But now is the time to rectify the situation. We've had two poor results against the Crues, so there will be little motivation required. The boys know they have a score to settle."
Lyttle will again be without the influential James Knowles, who is on the mend following a knee ligament injury, while Ross Lavery sustained a knock in last week's win over Ards.
"James is not far away from a return - he trained on Tuesday but this game will just come too soon for him," added Lyttle, who was thrilled with the performance of new boy Kym Nelson, who was recently brought in on loan from Glentoran.
"He has fitted in superbly well and impressed against Ards last week. I've known Kym for some time, I know what he's about and I reckon he'll be an asset for our club."