Belfast Telegraph

Skipper McMullan has earned big night says Cliftonville boss Lyttle

Cliftonville 3 - Glenavon1

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville take a break from Danske Bank Premiership duties when they host a Celtic XI in George McMullan's testimonial this evening.

Boss Gerard Lyttle was thrilled with his players' performance in Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Glenavon and, though he's determined the Reds' intensity levels won't drop in these final few weeks of the season, he will be only too happy to play his part in his skipper's celebrations.

"Nobody deserves an occasion like this more than George," said Lyttle, who began his career with Celtic and was part of the Cliftonville team when McMullan made his debut back in 2001.

"He's been a great servant to this club and is still such an important figure for us on and off the pitch."

The 34-year-old produced another exemplary display as the Lurgan Blues were downed at Solitude on Saturday.

Goals from Darren Murray and Jude Winchester put the Reds firmly in control and, though Simon Kelly's late header caused a few nervous jitters among the home support, Jay Donnelly's injury-time conversion wrapped up the hosts' elevation to third in the standings.

Quite what rewards that position will carry won't become known until the end of the season with automatic European qualification one possibility along with a potential bye straight through to the Europa League play-off final or, at the very least, home advantage all the way through the NI Football League's inaugural continental shoot-out.

One thing Lyttle is certain of, however, is his desire not to slip back down the standings.

"We're up into third at the minute and, though we don't know what that really means yet, we just want to make sure we generate some momentum in our performances and results.

"The players have put the work in recently and haven't always been getting the rub of the green but we've had a good week with a comeback at Ballymena, late win against Carrick and then this win against a good Glenavon team.

"We have to keep being positive, do things the right way and make sure we show the same kind of attitude and approach in every game."

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton offered no excuses.

"We just didn't get going," he admitted. "Cliftonville deserved their win but we were very flat and weren't like our usual selves.

"We've had a lot of games recently and our numbers are down through injuries and things like that. I don't want to say tiredness is a factor and I'd actually hoped the draw with Ballymena on Tuesday was a bit of a one-off, but it just didn't happen for us again here."

• TICKETS for tonight's George McMullan Testimonial clash between Cliftonville and a Celtic XI will be available at Solitude up until kick-off (7.45pm).

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Ives, Flynn, McMullan, Garrett, Murray, Brennan, Smyth, Winchester, J Donnelly, Hughes. Subs: Bonner, Curran (Murray, 71 mins), McDaid (Hughes, 89 mins), Catney (Winchester, 83 mins), Lavery.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Kelly, Dillon, Kilmartin, Marshall, Bradley, Hall, Patton, McGrory, Braniff, Martyn. Subs: Morris (Kilmartin, 68 mins), Lindsay, Hamilton (Hall, 68 mins), Elebert (Martyn, 63 mins), McGrath.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)

Man of match: Daniel Hughes

Match Rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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