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Cliftonville primed to finish job

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Jaimie McGovern celebrates last season's title triumph with fiancee Colette and daughter Miya

Jaimie McGovern celebrates last season's title triumph with fiancee Colette and daughter Miya

Mandatory C - redit Darren Kidd/

Jaimie McGovern celebrates last season's title triumph with fiancee Colette and daughter Miya

Oval old boy Jaimie McGovern knows Glentoran will be relishing the chance to torpedo Cliftonville's title challenge at Solitude tomorrow.

With four league games remaining, Tommy Breslin's side only hold a slender one point advantage over the Blues, so any slip could be fatal.

The last time the champions took on the Glens at the Oval, Eddie Patterson's boys shut them out in a scoreless draw.

Visiting players knew an opportunity to turn the screw on Linfield had been lost on the same day David Jeffrey's side could only draw at Coleraine.

But when the two title chasers went toe to toe at Windsor Park in the last round of fixtures, McGovern and co. rose to the challenge and celebrated a priceless 3-1 victory.

Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley, who squandered chances against the Glens, brought their shooting boots to the international venue and did what they do best.

Confidence is now high in the Solitude ranks that the mission can be completed but McGovern knows the Glens will be a tough nut to crack.

While European football is beyond the reach of the east-Belfast side, the Reds are the team with everything to lose.

"We aren't there yet and no-one is thinking that way," said the centre-back.

"There is history between Cliftonville and Glentoran with regard to the fact that Eddie (Patterson) used to be manager here and he will perhaps feel he has a point to prove when he brings his side here.

"There was some talk of him leaving the Reds on bad terms and maybe there's a part of him and his players that would love to spoil the party.

"We aren't expecting any favours from anyone and all the games are going to be tough. What's important is we still have a chance of winning the title when we go to Seaview for the last game.

"But things are ticking along nicely for us and I felt the win at Linfield was right up there with our best performances this season. We showed again what we are capable of.

"However, that's history now and the next game is the biggest one. The pressure is different this season but it's still there.

"A year ago we had more time on our hands and the title was won with six games to spare but now there is no margin for error."

The Reds, who this week handed two-year contract extensions to Eamonn Seydak and Stephen Garrett, are aiming to become the first Cliftonville side to win back to back titles.

"When we won the League Cup this season it was the first time the club had retained a trophy so there has been that added incentive to make history," added McGovern. "When this club won the title in 1998 they were nearly relegated the following year but there is real quality in this side and I think Tommy (Breslin) and his backroom staff deserve a lot of credit for strengthening the squad and building a team that will challenge for honours."

McGovern, who is 13 games away from his 100th appearance for the Reds, is still waiting to hit the target – a barren run that makes him an easy target for dressing room jokers.

"I think I'm getting closer," he adds. "There's a bit of banter about that but the problem for me now is that I don't tend to go up for corners.

"Bressy said to me 'do you want to go up' but I did just that against Portadown one time and they broke away and scored. I'll stay where I belong and let the strikers do the scoring. I just want to see the season out with no injuries and another league winner's medal."

* Danske Bank and the Northern Ireland Football League are inviting Irish League fans to participate in a football match featuring a few legends of our local game. Each Premiership club has been asked to select two fans for the clash at Solitude on Wednesday, April 23 (1pm).

On Twitter this game is being promoted using #DanskeDreamTeam.

Belfast Telegraph