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Reds will relish shot at more Euro glory: Lyttle

By Keith Bailie

Published 09/07/2016

Forward planning: Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle knows his side must find a higher gear against AEK Larnaca
Forward planning: Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle knows his side must find a higher gear against AEK Larnaca

Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle intends to do his homework on Europa League opponents AEK Larnaca.

This week's impressive 2-0 win over Luxembourg's Differdange sets up a clash with the Cypriot side, with the home leg at Solitude on Thursday night.

AEK Larnaca have claimed European wins over Rosenborg and Maccabi Haifa, while they also defeated San Marino's Folgore 6-1 on aggregated in the previous round.

Manager Lyttle is excited by the prospect of testing himself against a club of such pedigree.

"I don't know an awful lot about Larnaca, but I'd imagine it will be a step up in level from Differdange," he said.

"You've also got to take into consideration the heat in Cyprus for the away leg, which will make life very difficult. That makes the first leg at Solitude all the more important.

"We will do our research on AEK, and try and learn as much about them as possible so we're not going into the game blind. Our coach, Ricky McCann has a good knowledge of the European game and excellent contacts within the Northern Ireland team, so he will try and get as much information as possible on Larnaca for us.

"By defeating Differdange, we have raised the bar for ourselves. It's exactly the sort of challenge we relish.

"We will prepare professionally for Thursday night and try and take something from the game."

While Cliftonville's 2-0 win over Differdange was a team effort, manager Lyttle was keen to praise his twin strike force of Jay Donnelly and David McDaid.

The two forwards never gave Differdange a moment's rest, scoring two goals and winning numerous free-kick.

Reflecting on the game, a delighted Lyttle said: "The boys were fantastic in both legs, particularly out in Luxembourg.

"We did our homework as much as we could and I think that paid off.

"At Solitude we were more aggressive in our pressing game.

"Anytime we lost the ball, we made sure we were nice and tight. We waited for the right opportunity to win the ball back.

"The two up top in Jay Donnelly and Davy McDaid set the tone for us.

"Davy played an intelligent game. He used his body well. He's a shrewd player.

"Jay was fantastic in the air and dangerous with the ball at his feet.

"If he plays like that every week, he won't be in the Irish League for much longer."

Former Coleraine man McDaid opened the scoring in the 75th second, sending the Solitude support into rapturous.

However, at times, McDaid has been criticised by the Red Army. Lyttle believes the Cliftonville support undervalue the Londonderry based forward.

"It annoys me that our fans don't get behind him, more. I know exactly what he is about, and when Angry Dave is out, then he is a nuisance to play against," he added.

"He's an aggressive player but he is also a clever player. His hold up play is so intelligent. He knows when to make runs and he knows when to hold back.

"For me, he is one of the best strikers in the Irish League. On his day, he is a top, top player."

If McDaid repeats his Differdange performance on Thursday night, then AEK Larnaca will certainly have something to think about.

Belfast Telegraph

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