Johnston goes out for Swift revenge
Footballers have long memories and there will be more than just a whiff of revenge in the air when Cliftonville run out to face Dungannon Swifts at Solitude this afternoon.
The Reds players won't need reminded that the Swifts inflicted Irish Cup semi-final heartbreak on them last season.
Harry Fay's men won a tense penalty shoot-out at the Oval to deny the north Belfast side a shot at Linfield in the decider.
The Swifts have failed to sparkle this season and have yet to record a win after four league clashes to date but they will get little sympathy on their travels today.
Reds midfielder Barry Johnston hasn't forgotten the Irish Cup despair he suffered at the hands of the Tyrone men.
"Dungannon usually give us tough matches and they are a top side but we haven't forgotten the cup semi-final defeat last season," he said.
"That was a heartbreaking result for us and I think you could say that we owe them one.
"They have proved to be a bit of a bogey team for us and that was the feeling in the cup. But we are in a good position in the league and the last thing we want to do is slip up and fall behind teams like Glentoran and Linfield because they won't lose many matches over the course of the season.
"The Swifts have had a disappointing start but they got a point against the Glens and by all accounts played well against Linfield.
" I'm a huge admirer of Rodney McAree so if he is missing that's a big plus for us."
Johnston also likes the look of Swifts starlet Mark McAllister but he cannot believe the Stangmore Park favourite failed to seal a move to Celtic in the summer.
"I'm a big Celtic fan myself so I couldn't believe he turned them down!" added Johnston.
" But obviously if they were keeping a close eye on him there must be something about him.
"I would have jumped at any opportunity to join the Hoops but I hope he doesn't hurt us now. The points are very important to us because if teams around us slip up we can take advantage of their mistakes.
"We will have Liam Fleming back and Mark Holland while Daniel Lyons is fit again. Our first half performance against Newry in the CIS Cup game was a disgrace but the team still showed great hunger to fight back and that quality should see us stay in the title race.
"All we can do is try to win every game but we know this one won't be easy. The Swifts are a big strong physical side and not many teams go to the Oval and snatch a point. But we proved against Ballymena that we will battle for everything and the desire to win is there."
The Swifts will be without defender Adam McMinn for the trip to Solitude. But Fay has American striker Matt Walton back after missing the Crues game because of family commitments.