Belfast Telegraph

Blues trip will be Reds' toughest challenge yet, says Douglas

 

Honoured: Billie Simpson smiles with her award
Honoured: Billie Simpson smiles with her award

By Jonathan Martin

Round five of the Danske Bank Women's Premiership sees league leaders Linfield host Cliftonville at Midgley Park in the pick of the fixtures.

Cliftonville suffered their first league defeat last week away to Sion Swifts and Reds manager Marty Douglas is aware of the task ahead of his side.

"Away to Linfield is probably the hardest fixture we will face all season," he said. "Linfield are champions three years in a row, so it's always a daunting task."

Cliftonville, however, defeated Linfield in the County Antrim Cup earlier in the season, so will go in with no fear.

Douglas said: "Beating Linfield in the Cup gives us belief. That result gives us confidence.

"Games between the top four sides will probably decide who will win the league.

"It's going to be these games that are the difference come the end of the season."

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Douglas says there's a strong emphasis on youth development at Solitude.

"We have a very strong youth academy at Cliftonville and over the last number of seasons we have opted to use younger players," he said.

"At the minute we have six 16-year-olds that have come through the academy in the first team.

"We like to promote from within and show a player pathway. We are at full strength for the game and the girls are in good spirits and ready to go."

The Reds resume their league campaign boosted by the news that 26-year-old Billie Simpson picked up the prize for Women's Personality of the Year at the NI Football Awards.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table Comber Rec host Sion Swifts at Londonderry Park in Newtownards.

Comber boss Winston Kerr is aiming to kick on from the clubs first point last week.

"We are aiming to build upon last week's point and clean sheet against Derry City," said Kerr.

"That result gave us confidence and belief. We knew coming into the Premiership it's a massive jump standard wise from the Championship, obviously the table doesn't lie and it reflects that.

"Our goalkeeper last week Leigh Skelton was outstanding. She was signed from East Belfast and wanted to develop herself and the Premiership is the place to be.

"Last week she was the best player on the pitch and has been all season.

"Scoring our first goal will be a big relief when it comes. I obviously know we can score goals, we have scored many goals in the leagues leading up to the Premiership.

"We have the town of Comber behind us. We are the only ladies' club in the top flight from Co Down, and the men's clubs from Comber have supported us well."

In the other fixture, Glentoran play Crusaders at Ulidia Playing Fields in east Belfast.

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