Cliftonville Ladies manager John McGrady won’t allow his or his players’ minds to wander ahead of what he describes as a ‘massive’ north Belfast derby battle.
The Reds face a potentially pivotal top-of-the-table clash with Danske Bank Women’s Premiership title rivals Glentoran Women next week. The outcome of that game won’t decide who wins the league, but it could have consequences in the race for the crown.
Getting three points against Crusaders Strikers is foremost in McGrady’s mind and although the Seaview girls have yet to take any points off the top two this season, he has faced enough tussles with their local rivals over the years to know what is in store on the Shore Road tonight.
“We expect a tough, tough game,” said McGrady.
“Defensively they are so good. They are so well organised and they are relentless workers — they don’t stop.
“They are like a typical Crusaders team in that they are very, very hard to beat and I am sure they feel at times that they haven’t got the results they have deserved.”
That is part of the reason why McGrady isn’t looking any further than the next game.
Cliftonville are just a single point behind Glentoran and although they have two matches in hand, slip ups can prove costly and the margin for error is tight in such a small league.
“If we look past Crusaders then they will take advantage of that. It is such a big game and we can’t look any further than this,” said McGrady.
“I have coached most of my time at Cliftonville and in north Belfast derbies. No matter the age group or whether it’s men’s or women’s, it is a massive game and the fact that they are so good this season and are so hard to beat, we’d be silly to look any further than this game and lose our focus.”
Glentoran, whose in-form striker Kerry Beattie has been named as the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Danske Bank Player of the Month for June after scoring eight goals in four games, face their own derby tonight against Linfield Ladies.
Only a win will keep the Glens top ahead of next week’s eagerly-anticipated first v second battle and with a return of 16 goals from their last three games in all competitions their cutting edge is clear to see.
Glentoran have also boosted their squad with the capture of teenage star Cora Morgan from the Blues.
Linfield have hit a slump, losing eight of their last nine games, and they won’t be helped in the quest to turn that around by a fixture schedule that leaves them without a home game until September, with Midgley Park currently covered by a huge marquee ahead of the Uefa Super Cup final at Windsor Park.
Sion Swifts Ladies’ purple patch boasts five wins in their last six outings, but they will be wary of a Derry City Women team who beat them on their last visit to the Brandywell.
FIXTURES: Crusaders Strikers v Cliftonville Ladies (8pm), Derry City Women v Sion Swifts Ladies, Glentoran Women v Linfield Ladies (both 7.45pm)