Belfast Telegraph

Seaview collapse taught us a harsh lesson: Lyttle

By Graham Luney

Gerard Lyttle says he hopes his Cliftonville players have learned the harsh lessons from the demoralising 4-3 defeat to Crusaders at the start of October.

The north Belfast neighbours are reunited at Solitude this afternoon in a match which is key to both side's title aspirations.

A home win would leave the Reds only three points behind the champions and put a few lingering doubts in the mind of the Crusaders players.

A Crues victory, however, would be a significant blow to the hosts and a statement of intent which would be heard loud and clear at Windsor Park.

Stephen Baxter's side will set out not give their opponents a three goal advantage this time after that extraordinary match at Seaview.

Some sublime football carved out a 3-0 lead for the Reds but then they switched off and caved in to Crusaders pressure as Jordan Owens, Michael Carvill and David Cushley wreaked havoc in an incredible late turnaround.

"We did play some great football in that game," admitted Lyttle.

"That was mentioned quite a lot but we lost the game and you have to analyse why.

"I think Crusaders deserve immense credit for what they did, and rather than being too criticial of my players, I'd rather highlight Crusaders' mental toughness because that is what we want and what we are striving towards.

"The players have been magnificent and now we want to keep this good run going.

"The games are tough and injuries and supensions are kicking in but the boys' work-rate in training and in matches is fantastic.

"We want to be in the title mix but we have to keep going and keep performing. It's been a challenging season for various reasons but we have shown what we capable of and a win on Boxing Day would really keep spirits high."

The Reds will be without striker Daniel Hughes, who was sent off for an alleged punch thrown against Carrick Rangers.

"It was a crazy decision," said Lyttle. "The boy is going to miss a massive match when he should not have been sent off. It's a hard pill to swallow but we've got to focus on what is a huge game now and the players we have available to us."

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