Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin has warned his players they are on the verge of throwing away all their hard work by missing out on Europa League qualification following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with a makeshift Crusaders line-up.
The Reds currently boast a four point buffer over Coleraine in the race for Europe but the Bannsiders have a game in hand and have still to play both the Crues and Linfield, who are likely to field weakened teams in preparation for locking horns with one another in the Irish Cup final.
Victory in the weekend’s north-Belfast derby would have gone a long way towards securing their position but, after George McMullan had stroked home an 83rd minute penalty, Breslin’s men were left to rue what could be a crucial points loss when Michael Halliday powered home an injury-time header.
“We have two games left and if we win them, we’ll qualify for Europe,” said the Reds boss.
“But they will be tough matches and we’ll need a huge improvement on what we’ve been producing recently because it hasn’t been good enough, nowhere near it.
“The old saying about making your own luck is absolutely true and the players need to realise that the tighter we get to opponents, the more we hassle people and the quicker we are to loose balls, the more likely we are to get that luck.
“It all comes down to hard work and we need to get back to doing that for our last two matches or we could end up regretting it.”
Opposite number Stephen Baxter was delighted with his team’s performance after resting almost his entire starting XI to keep them fresh for tonight’s Setanta Sports Cup semi-final first leg with Sligo Rovers.
“We have a lot of young players leaving here with a ringing endorsement in their ears from me,” he said.
“This was a chance for them to show what they could do against a good Cliftonville side and perhaps catch my eye — a lot of them have done that.”