Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville remain optimistic over Boyce injury fears

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville are hopeful Liam Boyce will be fit to face Crusaders on Saturday week after the first scan on his injured ankle uncovered no serious damage.

The Northern Ireland international limped out of the Ballymena Showgrounds on Tuesday night with a badly sprained ankle – but an x-ray has failed to locate any ligament damage.

Boyce's ankle will be examined further when the swelling is reduced but the news coming out of the Solitude treatment room is positive.

The Reds shot to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership following a 3-1 win at the home of the Sky Blues but the injury to the former Werder Bremen man had fans fearing the worst.

However, Cliftonville chief Tommy Breslin said: "The initial assessment is a badly sprained ankle and with a bit of rest and intense treatment we could see him back playing soon.

"Liam's a quick healer and the important thing is no break has been detected. Once the swelling goes down there's always the possibility of ligament damage emerging but we are hopeful that's not the situation.

"With a bit of treatment he could be ok for the Crusaders game and that would be a huge bonus for us because obviously it's the business end of the season.

"These things can happen – you jump and then fall awkwardly on your ankle but Liam will be back sooner rather than later.

"He would have been a big loss but we have other attacking options including Stephen Garrett who is coming back from injury. Injuries are part and parcel of the game and that's where the squad comes in."

The Reds fell behind at Warden Street but once again showed the character and fight that saw them finish top of the tree last May.

When Conor Devlin punched Tony Kane's corner into his own net, the visitors knew they had a battle on their hands but they hit back immediately when Mark Surgenor diverted Martin Donnelly's free-kick past keeper Aaron Shanahan.

When Johnny Taylor was red-carded for bringing down Joe Gormley and the striker netted his 32nd of the season from the penalty spot, the north-Belfast side were in control and Donnelly sealed the win.

"We created opportunities and didn't take them in the first half but we have come through some very intense battles recently and it's been a demanding schedule for the players," added Breslin.

"We have hardly had a training session because the big games have come thick and fast.

"There hasn't been that crispness or sharpness to us which was a feature of our play last season but it's important that you grind out a few wins as well.

"I was pleased with our second half performance as the character and will to win was there. Sometimes you won't play well but you still must play well enough to see the job through.

"It was one of those nights when the wind catches the ball and it could go anywhere. Teams are putting it up to us, as we expected, and we have risen to that challenge.

"We aren't the most physical side but we have been involved in some huge battles.

"People will say we can be fully focused on the league now but I'd still love to be in the Irish Cup and playing games gives the players that match sharpness."

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