Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Cliftonville ready for difficult task in east Belfast, maintains Harkin

By Alex Mills

Midfielder Ruairi Harkin admits Cliftonville never get things easy at the Oval - and, following Glentoran's controversial managerial reshuffle this week, he's expecting an even bigger challenge today.

But the 28-year-old can afford to play with a smile on his face again because he's recently returned to first-team action following cruciate ligament knee surgery that kept him out for close on 15 months.

Harkin started in the last two games against Warrenpoint Town and Linfield and believes he is getting stronger by the week.

"Being out of the game for so long was so frustrating, I thought my comeback would never come around," he said. "It took a lot longer than anticipated, but it's a relief to be back playing again.

"When a new manager comes in, players tend to up their game and give an extra five per cent in training and on the pitch.

"Glentoran have been struggling a bit in terms of results and are in danger of missing out on a top six place. But we can't afford to let that affect us. We must make sure we are better all over the pitch.

"We've had some good results this season, but we've also seen the other side with some disappointing performances. We've probably lacked a bit of consistency and that has cost us.

"Our only route to European football this season is now through the end-of-season play-offs or the Irish Cup. It means we must make sure we win our next two games to remain on track.

"It's essential we pick up three points at The Oval before next week's cup tie with Linfield which is now so significant."

Belfast Telegraph

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