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Lyttle now looks to derby clash as hot Reds make it six in a row


Red mist: Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson and Daniel Hughes clash

Red mist: Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson and Daniel Hughes clash

Red mist: Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson and Daniel Hughes clash

Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle said that his players are in understandably confident mood going into next Monday's north Belfast derby with Premiership leaders Crusaders.

The Reds made it six league wins in a row - and eight unbeaten - with a fourth successive clean sheet as Carrick Rangers were brushed aside with more than the three goals to spare.

"We go into the game with confidence but the derby game takes care of itself," said Lyttle. "There'll be a great atmosphere, I believe it'll be a sell-out and it's important we prepare well this week.

"The Christmas period is an important part of the season because there are so many games and it's where your squad really kicks on and we will probably have to use everyone."

One player who almost certainly won't be available is striker Daniel Hughes, who was controversially sent off in one of the more bizarre incidents of the season.

Despite belatedly earning a Stephen Garrett-converted penalty, as referee Mervyn Smyth changed his mind after talking to his assistants, for a head-high challenge by Carrick's Brian Neeson, it was Hughes who was sent off for charging at the keeper after the incident, while Neeson was not even booked.

Cliftonville are hoping that the IFA will look at the incident and reprieve Hughes, but Lyttle did confirm that captain Jason McGuinness is available for selection as they have challenged the six-match ban following his red card against Portadown.

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The big central defender was not missed on Saturday - indeed, 16-year-old Premiership debutant Aaron Donnelly filled his shoes in the words of his manager "magnificently" - but the Crusaders strike-force is certain to be rather more lethal than Carrick's.

The home team still forced Levi Ives to clear off the line from the impressive Daniel Kelly, who also headed against the bar in the second half, but by then Cliftonville should have been out of sight.

Davy McDaid provided the opening goal and an assist for Garrett in the first half hour, while the latter was denied twice by Neeson and a James Knowles thunderbolt rattled the crossbar.

Carrick boss Aaron Callaghan said: "It was a tough game, but that's the most disappointing performance since I have been here - by a mile.

"Yes, you have to take the quality of the opposition into account - Gerard's been there with that team for three years, I have been here seven weeks."

Carrick: Neeson, Chapman, Surgenor, McNally, M Murray, Rice (Foster, 56 mins), Taggart, McCullough, Lavery (Morrow, 72 mins), TJ Murray (Green, 90 mins), Kelly. Unused subs: Wilson, Hanley.

Cliftonville: Burke, Cosgrove, McGovern, A Donnelly, Ives, Knowles (Catney, 82 mins), M Donnelly (Lavery, 68 mins), Curran, Hughes, Garrett, McDaid (J Donnelly, 85 mins). Unused subs: J Mooney, Seydak.

Referee: Mervyn Smyth

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